MOSCOW, Russia – At least 400 people have been arrested in Moscow when a protest against a murder blamed on a migrant from the North Caucasus turned violent.
Some 23 people including eight policemen were injured in the riots in a southern Moscow suburb Sunday, authorities said.
The protests followed the killing last week of a 25-year-old local resident, Yegor Shcherbakov, reportedly by an attacker with an appearance of Caucasus or Central Asian origin.
Shcherbakov was killed Thursday in front of his girlfriend. Police have released a security camera photo of the suspect, but have not identified him.
The violence was sparked off as thousands of people took to the streets in Biryulyovo demanding the eviction of migrant workers.
“On Sunday extremist persons decided to take advantage of the situation Many of them were drunk,” said Anatoly Yakunin, a senior Moscow police official at the Moscow police headquarters.
“They were young people, unfortunately (there were) women among them too. They began to cross the legal line in actions bordering on mass disorders.”
Yakunin said 380 people were arrested overnight.
Shcherbakov’s girlfriend, whose name was not disclosed, said that a “non-Russian man took out a knife and stabbed him in the heart”.
“We called the ambulance, but we couldn’t save him, and he died on my knees,” she said in an interview on NTV, a television network.
The issue of immigration and internal migration has been one of the burning issues concerning Muscovites in the recent election of Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.
Sobyanin ordered Shcherbakov’s murder to be thoroughly investigated, while also condemning the rioting. He called for those responsible to be held accountable.
Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev met with top ministry officials in Moscow following the violence.
The minister urged law enforcement officials to check all vegetable warehouses in the Russian capital for both illegal migrants and possible suspects in the murder.
“Literally tomorrow, activate the work in relation to all of the vegetable warehouses, which are a constant source of tension, especially in the districts that surround those warehouses,” Kolokoltsev said.
“I am asking the head of the [Moscow] police and I’m asking all managers who are on call of duty, who participate in this work, to quickly deal with these warehouses, bring order, make everyone work according to Russian law, where they are located, where they work, regardless of the region they came from.”
Kolokoltsev stressed that all of the inspections should be done as soon as possible to prevent unrest in the city.
“I really hope that this work will improve the situation in the city,” he said. “Otherwise, all those provocateurs and extremists will definitely use this opportunity to call on young people to the barricades to make a judgment no one needs.”