Hundreds of Russian nationalists rally after fan's death

16th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Hundreds of Russian football fans and nationalists rallied Saturday to commemorate the death of a fan as investigators said the fight leading to his killing was started by migrants from the Russian Caucasus.

Between 200 and 300 people gathered in northern Moscow to lay flowers at the bus stop where Yegor Sviridov, a Spartak Moscow football club fan, was shot last month in a brawl.

Since then, the bus stop has been covered with icons, candles, and poems with nationalist and xenophobic undertones.

Saturday marked 40 days after his death, an important day of mourning under the Russian Orthodox tradition. However the gathering in Moscow fell far below the announced 4,000 and was dramatically outnumbered by police, whose presence included a helicopter.

Still, police told Russian agencies they detained some 19 people to check their involvement in last month's protest near the Kremlin, which finished off a similar day of mourning for Sviridov and descended into violence.

Moscow police, apparently fearful of a repeat, dispatched several dozen riot troop buses and ambulances to the Manege square near the Kremlin, and has cordoned off the Red Square with a metal detector, Interfax reported.

"Our protest in December at the Manege square showed that we can influence Russian politics," leader of nationalist group Slavic Union said Saturday.

Similar declarations flowed in Saint Petersburg, Russia's second largest city where a rally for Sviridov drew about 600 people.

"We demand free elections. Nationalists must have representation in the Duma," Andrei Dmitriyev, one of the organizers and former leader of banned National Bolshevik party, told AFP.

Nationalist and opposition slogans quickly replaced words in memory of Sviridov as people shouted "Glory to Russia!" "Down with immigrants" and "Putin's band behind bars!"

"I have several children and I want them to live in a safe country," said 53-year-old Anatoly Ivanov, who came to the rally with his small son. "They are Russian and should live with Russians, and migrants enforce their own rules."

Sviridov's death and the following clashes have exposed the close links between Russian extremists and football supporters and the authorities' blind eye towards mounting tension between local Russians and migrants from the country's North Caucasus and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

Russian investigators said on Saturday that the fight in which Sviridov was killed was "knowingly provoked" by a group of men from the North Caucasus.

On the night of the murder, police had freed most of the men, a decision was decried by the football fan community, with about a thousand blocking a major highway in protest.

Faced with such pressure authorities have now arrested five people of the six North Caucasus natives that participated in the fight, the Investigative Committee of prosecutors said in a statement.

The investigation is "studying the arrested in detail", namely "identifying what work they did and how they supported themselves in the capital", where they did not have residence permits, the statement said.

© 2011 AFP

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