Russia cracks down on migrant workers after ethnic rioting

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MOSCOW -- One day after rioting youths demanded the eviction of migrant workers from outside Russia, police swept through the vegetable market that was the target of the violence, detaining about 1,200 workers and traders, most of them from the northern Caucasus region, news agencies reported Monday.

On Sunday, thousands of young people had taken to the streets in a southern Moscow suburb, overturning cars, breaking windows in street kiosks and attempting to break into the vegetable market run by migrants. The protests came in the wake of the killing last week of a 25-year-old ethnic Russian man, reportedly by an attacker who appeared to be of Caucasian or Central Asian origin.

Protesters chanted, "Russia for Russians, Moscow for Muscovites," and threw stones at riot police. More than 20 people, including six police officers, were injured.

"On Sunday, extremist persons decided to take advantage of the situation. ... Many of them were drunk," Anatoly Yakunin, a senior Moscow police official, said during an urgent meeting at police headquarters. "They were young people -- unfortunately, women among them, too."

Television reports showed groups of young men randomly attacking and beating up people of non-Russian appearance. Thousands of police officers in full riot gear and armed with clubs patrolled the streets of the suburban Biryulyovo-Zapadnoye district overnight after the protests subsided. Mr. Yakunin said 380 people were arrested.

On Monday, police returned to the vegetable market, checking the documents of migrant workers and loading them into vans. Police spokesman Andrei Galiakberov described the roundup as part of a "pre-emptive raid," and said some detainees were being investigated for criminal connections. Police said they also found a car full of cash and unlicensed arms.

Sunday's unrest was the worst ethnic violence in Moscow since Dec. 11, 2010, when more than 5,000 people rioted in front of the Kremlin, angered by the death of a soccer fan killed by a man from the northern Caucasus.

More than 2 million migrants work in Moscow, most in trade and construction. Those from Central Asia and the Caucasus, generally darker-skinned than ethnic Russians and often Muslim, face virulent discrimination and have been frequent targets of violence and police crackdowns.

The latest violence began Thursday with the stabbing death of a man identified as Yegor Shcherbakov. His girlfriend told the NTV television channel that he had been trying to protect her from an attacker of "non-Russian" appearance.

The suspect's face was caught by a surveillance camera, and police were searching for him.


First Published October 14, 2013 8:00 PM


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