MOSCOW — Moscow police detained hundreds of people after the murder of a Russian man provoked the worst nationalist violence in almost three years in the capital.
The riot, which state news service RIA Novosti said injured six policemen, began Sunday in the Birulyovo district after a 25-year-old local resident was allegedly stabbed to death Oct. 10 by a person born in Central Asia or Russia’s Caucasus region.
Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev held an emergency meeting after protesters ransacked a shopping center and vegetable market, Moscow police said Monday on its website.
President Vladimir Putin faces a growing challenge from nationalist groups as tensions grow between ethnic Russians and migrant laborers. In December 2010, hundreds of riot police were deployed to quell nationalist riots near Red Square, which were provoked by the shooting of a soccer fan by migrants from Russia’s southern Muslim provinces.
“This is a major warning bell because for the first time in Moscow, you’ve had severe unrest involving not just soccer fans but local residents too,” Alexander Verkhovsky, head of the SOVA research center, which tracks xenophobia, said.
A thousand people participated in the unrest and 380 were detained, Vasily Oleynik, deputy head of Moscow’s regional safety department, was cited as saying by RIA.
Opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who challenged Putin ally Sergei Sobyanin for Moscow mayor in last month’s elections with promises to rein in migration, called for the city’s police chief to resign and urged authorities to impose tougher visa restrictions for workers from Central Asia.
“Sobyanin should come himself to Birulyovo and address the crowd,” Navalny said on his Twitter account. “We need a root-and-branch reform of the courts, police and visa regime with Central Asia.”
Footage of the riot showed protesters shouting “Russians for Russia, Moscow for Muscovites” and holding Russian flags. Moscow, the biggest city in the former Soviet Union, is a magnet for Russian speakers seeking a better life and improved job prospects, resulting in tension with Muscovites.
The authorities released all but 72 people Monday, with two facing possible criminal charges, RIA reported, citing the Moscow police.
While Sobyanin has targeted illegal migrants through police raids, Navalny accuses municipal authorities of employing migrants as cleaners and plumbers to pocket as much as half of their wages.
He proposed a ban on migrant labor at state agencies, including for contractors who employ them.
Migrants were responsible for more than half of the crimes committed in the Russian capital last year, according to Moscow police chief Anatoly Yakunin. One-third of them are foreigners, with the rest from other Russian regions.
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