Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I DON'T CARE IF RACISTS HEADS GET CRACKED
From the St. Petersburg Times.
The St. Petersburg Times
MOSCOW — President Dmitry Medvedev praised Moscow police for a violent crackdown on shocking downtown rioting near the Kremlin’s walls Saturday, even as police sought information on who had led the mob of some 5,500 football fans in shouting racist phrases and attacking North Caucasus natives.
The unsanctioned rally demanding an investigation into the killing of a football fan on Dec. 5 erupted into violence after demonstrators spotted a group of dark-skinned teenagers and tried to beat them, news reports said.
A similar rally took place Saturday in St. Petersburg, where some 3,000 football fans clashed with police during an unsanctioned downtown march, RIA-Novosti said. About 50 were briefly detained.
In Moscow, thirty-two people were wounded, including two seriously, Interfax reported. At least three of those hospitalized were Caucasus natives, all with stab wounds. Eight police officers were also injured.
Police briefly detained 66 people.
The mood in Moscow was tense Sunday as rumors circulated in online football forums that Caucasus natives were planning counterstrike attacks, but police called the rumors a provocation by ultranationalists.
During Saturday’s rally, chants of “Russia for Russians” and “[expletive] the Caucasus” reverberated across Manezh Square, proving a major embarrassment for the Kremlin, which prides itself on allowing no unsanctioned public events and is accused by the liberal opposition of secretly sympathizing with nationalists.
The protesters came to the square to protest the death of Yegor Sviridov, 28, a member of a radical Spartak Moscow fan group who was shot dead during an interracial brawl with North Caucasus natives.
A suspect in the murder, Aslan Cherkesov, a native of Kabardino-Balkaria, was detained last week, but his companions were released after questioning, prompting speculation that they had paid off the police.
After the crowd attacked the group of dark-skinned teens, police whisked them into an ambulance, prompting the demonstrators to pelt officers with stones, flares, empty bottles and chunks of ice, and attack them with metal rods, news reports said.
Some protesters stamped on the head of a dark-skinned man and dragged the bloodied victim by the legs, Gazeta.ru said. Photos of the square by blogger Zyalt show some participants raising their arms in an apparent Nazi salute.
Moscow police chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev personally negotiated with the protesters, with photos by Zyalt showing him talking to a man hiding his face behind a balaclava, which he refused to remove.
The crowd dispersed after Kolokoltsev promised to solve Sviridov’s murder, but then proceeded to run in packs through metro cars, chanting, “White carriage, white carriage!” as they hit and kicked people who appeared to be Caucasus and Central Asian natives.
More than 10 assaults on dark-skinned migrants were reported in the suburbs later Saturday, said Galina Kozhevnikova, who tracks xenophobia with the Sova watchdog, Gazeta.ru reported.
The protesters also toppled a New Year’s tree on Manezh Square.
Early reports said police had identified the organizers of the Moscow violence, but a law enforcement source told RIA-Novosti on Sunday that investigators remained unsure and were examining feeds from surveillance cameras in the area to identify people involved in the attacks on policemen and passers-by.
Ultranationalist organizations and football fan clubs — two communities known to overlap — denied involvement in the violence.
“It was no doubt a provocation by nationalists, who try to drag football fans into these showdowns,” the Russian Football Union said, Interfax reported Sunday.
Fratria, the football club to which Sviridov, the slain fan, belonged, also distanced itself, saying in a statement on its web site that it “opposes any actions that violate Russian law” and “supports law and justice.”
Dmitry Dyomushkin, leader of the banned radical Slavic Union group, said that “blaming nationalists is ridiculous,” Interfax reported. But he conceded that at least half of the rally’s participants were nationalists.
Three North Caucasus natives believed to have participated in the fight that killed Sviridov were detained over the weekend. News reports identified them as Khasan Ibragimov, Nariman Ismailov and Artur Alfibiyev.
Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said Sunday that left-wing radicals had provoked Saturday’s rioting. He did not elaborate.
He also praised city police officers, saying they had prevented large-scale riots. He said police initially had refrained from cracking down on the unsanctioned rally because they had sought to shield tourists and Muscovites walking in the area from getting caught up in a brawl.
Medvedev said Saturday that city police handled the incident correctly. He did not elaborate.
Independent analysts were markedly less impressed, with Alexei Mukhin of the Center for Political Technologies calling the authorities’ reserved reaction “disgusting.”
“Our authorities often think everything will blow over by itself,” he said, warning that an ethnic confrontation in the capital could escalate if the instigators were not found and punished quickly.
Alexei Lebedev, a sports editor with Moskovsky Komsomolets, said the government has neglected the youth section of society, including sports fans, leaving them open to nationalists’ influence.
“Football fans are a part of the youth community — they haven’t arrived from the moon,” Lebedev told The St. Petersburg Times.
In St. Petersburg, 1,000 to 2,000 people, including nationalists and football fans, attended a memorial rally on Pionerskaya Ploshchad near the Theater of the Young Spectator (TYuZ), from where they marched through the city — some lighting flares and shouting nationalist slogans — ending up at Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main street.
OMON riot police tried to disperse the marchers, detaining dozens, but failed to stop the rally, with an estimated 500 reaching Gostiny Dvor metro station.
Eighty were arrested on Vvedensky Kanal and the Fontanka Embankment, the police force reported on its official web site Monday. Twenty were released after being cautioned, while 60 were charged with violating the rules for holding assemblies, blocking transport routes and failing to obey police officers. The offences are punishable by up to 15 days in prison.
Interfax reported that football fans started to fight with the police when officers tried to arrest several men, throwing pieces of ice, bottles and flares at them. The protesters blame the police’s actions for provoking the clashes.
The Other Russia, an opposition party that took part in the event, said in a statement Monday that the use of force on the part of the OMON was excessive. According to the statement, some of the football fans who took part in the rally “undertook aggressive actions” toward non-Russian passersby and damaged a number of cars belonging to non-Russians. “Such actions discredit the idea of civic protest,” it said.
According to Interfax, the initial presence of the police on the site was “minimal,” despite the fact that the rally was expected to be a major event. Some reports describe the police’s actions as contradictory, saying the officers acted as if they had not been given distinct orders.
Additional reporting by Sergey Chernov.