Mass arrests over Russia riots

More than 1,000 people held in capital Moscow to prevent new outbreaks of ethnic violence after death of football fan.

    Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, has warned that such riots threatened 'the stability of the state'

    More than 1,000 youths have been arrested in Moscow and several other cities in a bid to prevent any further ethnic riots from erupting following the shooting dead of a football fan.

    Vitkor Biryukov, a spokesman for the Moscow city police, said many of the arrests were made at the Kievsky train station, where police deployed hundreds of riot troops in anticipation of a street battle that had been reportedly been planned there.

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    Rumours of Wednesday's standoff spread across the internet following a weekend riot outside the Kremlin involving about 5,000 football fans and elements of the far-right.

    Scuffles erupted outside the station, which is popular with traders from the predominantly-Muslim Caucasus region, as hundreds of riot police rounded up and detained young men and teenagers shouting racist slogans.

    Biryukov said "several air guns, knives, clubs, and and stun guns" were confiscated. He added that police patrols had been stepped up throughout the centre of the city.

    The police also sealed off portions of Red Square and checked the documents of tens of thousands of people as they passed through major commuting points.

    The death of a Moscow Spartak fan, allegedly in a fight with North Caucasians, has prompted riots and attacks on ethnic minorities. Dozens more people were reportedly detained in other Russian cities.

    Police 'crackdown'

    Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow, met senior security officers in a bid to organise a response to the sudden security crisis as small fights flared across the city centre despite the overwhelming presence of the police.

    "The police will continue to crackdown against any attempts at provocation and violence," the mayor told state television after the meeting.

    Similar incidents were also reported in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg as organised members of the far-right descended on a major square in the heart of the city amid shops and busy metro stations.

    The police there made more than 60 arrests while Russia's Interfax news agency reported another 100 detentions in the Volga region city of Samara.

    Saturday's unsanctioned rally was called to protest the police's handling of the suspected shooting of the Moscow football fan.

    Twitter appeal

    Gangs of Muslims were reported to be planning a counter-rally at Kievsky and a major Russian nationalist movement called on its supporters to come armed to the site.

    "Trust only yourself and those close to you," a Twitter feed used by Russia's far-right instructed its followers as the hour of the big street battle approached.

    Death of a Moscow Spartak fan, allegedly in a fight with North Caucasians, has prompted ethnic riots [AFP]

    "Do not panic and remove your women, children and the elderly from the streets," the message said. "Victory is ours!"

    Saturday's racism-tinged demonstration and ensuing tensions have exposed the many problems confronting Russia one week after it was awarded the right to host the 2018 World Cup.

    Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, warned that such riots threatened "the stability of the state".

    Resentment has been rising in Moscow about the number of people from Russia's south and the Central Asian republics working in the city's open-air markets and construction sites.

    The city administration has been under pressure to limit the number of migrants and give these jobs to ethnic Russians - despite the low wages involved.

    Medvedev added his voice to the debate by urging the country's trade unions to make sure that the hiring of outsiders "does not hurt our citizens".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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