Soccer riots cloud Russia as host
Fans in violent protests clash with anti riot police, just weeks after Moscow won the bid to host 2018 World Cup.
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2010 12:07 GMT
As Russia prepares to host the 2018 World Cup, its football fans will be closely watched by the authorities [EPA]

Police clashed with thousands of soccer fans who descended on Manezh Square next to the Kremlin, to protest the fatal shooting of a man on the streets of Moscow.

In Saturday's clashes, at least three people were reported injured by RIA Novosti, the state news agency.

'Embarrassing' for 2018 hosts

The demonstrators chanted nationalist slogans such as "Russia for Russians," performed Nazi salutes, and shouted abuse at the anti-riot police, who were trying to control the crowd.

The incident has exposed the close links between Russian ultra-nationalists and football supporters.

It is a major embarrassment for the country, so soon after it won the right to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018.

"If the authorities don't change the policy on immigration, there will be a lot of bloodshed," said one demonstrator, whose face was hidden behind a black mask.

A 5000-strong crowd gathered, to protest the death of Yegor Sviridov, a Spartak Moscow fan.

He was shot in the head with rubber bullets ast Saturday, during a fight with men from the Russian Caucasus, in a fight at a bus stop.

Aslan Cherkesov, the suspect in Sviridov's shooting, who is from the Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, is under arrest and claimed that he was acting in self defence.

On Saturday, a Moscow court authorised the arrest of two other suspects, both from the Caucasus region of Dagestan.

The rioters threw flares and large ornaments off a Christmas tree at the police officers and tried to break through the police line but were met with swinging batons from the police.

It took the authorities an hour to disperse the demonstration.

There were also reports of demonstrators who later clashed with police at a subway station below the square after trying to storm a train on which they had spotted a passenger who appeared to be of Caucasus origin.

Earlier on Saturday, several thousand mourners gathered at the bus stop in northern Moscow where Sviridov was killed to lay flowers.

Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Moscow police chief, met with leaders of the demonstrators and promised that Svidorov's death would be thoroughly investigated.

Viktor Biryukov, police spokesman was quoted by Russian media as saying that 65 Spartak Moscow fans had been detained.

Spartak Moscow is one of the top Russian premiership sides and it has an impassioned support base in the capital.

"Thirteen people including police officers have been hospitalised," said Rashid Nurgaliyev, Interior Minister, who blamed the violence on "left-wing extremists".

Frequent clashes

The clashes between the football fans and representatives of ethnic minorities, mainly from the Caucasus region, happen quite often in Russia.

Small-scale political protests are relatively common in Moscow, but a gathering on this scale so close to the seat of Russian power is highly unusual.

There was no immediate comment from authorities.

In July another Spartak fan, telejournalist Yury Volkov, was stabbed to death in a fight with men from the Russian Caucasus in a central Moscow park. A Chechen man has been charged with the crime.

The killing prompted fans to brandish banners with Volkov's name at matches and to hold several public protests.

As Russia prepares to host the 2018 World Cup, its football fans will be closely watched by the authorities.

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