Nationalist-led race riot cripples Moscow suburb

Protesters clash with police officers as they try to block the way during a protest in Moscow. Photo / AP
Protesters clash with police officers as they try to block the way during a protest in Moscow. Photo / AP

Moscow police are holding almost 400 people under arrest after the Russian capital was rocked by some of its worst ethnically-fuelled rioting in years, sparked by the killing of an ethnic Russian, allegedly by a Muslim migrant from the Caucasus.

An initially peaceful protest in the Biryulyovo district of Moscow to protest against the killing of Yegor Shcherbakov, 25, rapidly descended into bloody clashes with the police that left the glass doors of a shopping centre smashed and cars upturned.

The crowd chanted "Russia for Russians!" and other nationalist slogans during a protest that swelled to more than 1000 people in the industrial district of southern Moscow.

Police said that 380 people had been arrested over the rioting and were being questioned as part of a criminal investigation into hooliganism.

Another 14 nationalists were later arrested on a passenger train leaving the area carrying gas canisters, police said. Six anti-riot police were injured and two are still in hospital.

Moscow police brought in hundreds of reinforcements to deal with the crisis and enforced their extreme "Vulkan" operation plan, which is used in case of a terror attack.

Shcherbakov was murdered on Friday in the area as he walked with his girlfriend out of a billiards club.

Media said that security footage showed his killer was a man of "non-Slavic appearance" from the Northern Caucasus, leading nationalists to conclude the murderer was a Muslim labour migrant.

The Komsomolskaya Pravda alleged that a fight had begun between the two men after the killer insulted the girlfriend.

Shcherbakov's friends then put pictures of the suspected killer on their social network accounts in a bid to find him.

Tensions have ratcheted up in recent years in big cities like Moscow between ethnic Russians and migrants from Russia's largely Muslim Northern Caucasus as well as the Muslim states of ex-Soviet Central Asia.

The protesters in Biryulyovo accused the police of failing to swiftly investigate the murder and also called on the authorities to toughen up migration legislation.

The topic of immigration was the single biggest issue in September's elections for Moscow Mayor won by pro-Kremlin incumbent Sergei Sobyanin, with the top opposition candidate Alexei Navalny also urging a tougher line.

- AFP

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