MOSCOW, November 27 (Marc Bennetts, RIA Novosti) – Russian nationalist leaders warned on Tuesday of possible street violence after the release from custody of a former mixed martial arts champion convicted of causing the death of an ethnic Russian.
Rasul Mirzaev, 26, who hails from the country’s mainly Muslim North Caucasus, received the maximum sentence of two years in prison for causing death by negligence over the incident outside a Moscow nightclub last year, but was released immediately because of time already served.
A number of people, including fiery nationalist leader Dmitry Dyomushkin, were detained outside the court after the ruling, which was met by shouts of “shame!” inside the courtroom.
The court ruled that the punch that Mirzaev landed on 19-year-old ethnic Russian Ivan Agafonov after a row outside a Moscow nightclub in August 2011 had not resulted in his death. The court said Agafonov had died after striking his head on the asphalt.
“There will be a reaction to this ruling – trouble is unavoidable,” nationalist leader Vladimir Tor told RIA Novosti after the conclusion of a case that has captivated the country and further exposed tensions between ethnic Russians and natives of the volatile North Caucasus region.
“If people cannot find justice in the courts, they will find it elsewhere,” he added.
The ruling has stoked fears that Russia could see a repeat of the rioting that took place after the death of a Moscow football fan at the hands of Dagestani youths in December 2010, when some 5,000 nationalists rioted next to the Kremlin walls.
“Anything is possible,” said Tor, when asked if a repetition of the 2011 Manezhnaya Square riots was likely. He also said nationalists were organizing a protest against Tuesday’s ruling.
Mirzaev, known as the Black Tiger, originally faced a sentence of up to 15 years before the charges were reduced in January. The fighter pled guilty to the lesser charge of causing death by negligence, saying there was no intent to harm Agafonov. Lawyers for Agafonov’s family vowed on Tuesday to appeal the sentence at the European Court of Human Rights.
“Nothing good will come of this ruling,” Dyomushkin, the former head of the outlawed Slavic Union, told RIA Novosti by telephone after his arrest outside the court. ““I’m not going to say exactly what will happen, but there will be a reaction.”
“This was a political decision,” he added. “It became political after officials from Dagestan got involved in the case.”
Judge Andrei Fedin told journalists after the ruling that he had been under “no pressure” to release Mirzaev, a former world champion in the Russian martial art of sambo.
Former WBA heavyweight champion Nikolai Valuev attempted to defuse the situation:
“There are no grounds for nationalist hysteria over the Mizaev case. You shouldn’t fan nationalist hysteria, it’s wrong,” said Valuev, who was elected as a parliamentarian for the ruling United Russia party last year.
In an online poll carried out by the Rapsi legal news agency ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, just under 37 percent of respondents said Mirzaev should be jailed for from 11 to 15 years, while around 45 percent said he should not be imprisoned. Just under 47,000 people took part in the survey.
The ruling comes following a number of high-profile crimes committee in Moscow by North Caucasus natives, including a knife attack on tram passengers in the east of the capital earlier this month.
Thousands of nationalists marched in central Russia on November 4 – Unity Day – to decry what they said was overly generous Kremlin funding of the North Caucasus and call for limits on internal migration.