Russian football fans run riot in Moscow protest

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Russian football supporters ran riot in the centre of Moscow on Saturday, when a demonstration against the death of a fan descended into violence that left dozens injured and around 100 under arrest.

Thousands of fans, supported by members of far-right groups, gathered in Manezhnaya Square near the Kremlin for the unauthorised protest, shouting slogans such as "Russia for Russians" and "Moscow for Muscovites", according to an AFP photographer.

They were protesting the death of Yegor Sviridov, a Spartak Moscow fan who was shot in the head last Saturday during a fight with men from the Russian Caucasus.

The incident has exposed the close links between the Russian far-right and football supporters, and is a major embarrassment for the country so soon after it won the right to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018.

As many as 5,000 people, many wearing hoods and scarves to cover their faces, descended on the square, and fighting began to break out.

Several dozen supporters were beaten by anti-riot police, while at least five Caucasian men were violently attacked by supporters. Around 100 people were arrested.

Protestors also beat up a cameraman of state news agency RIA Novosti and smashed his camera.

"If the authorities don't change the policy on immigration, there will be a lot of bloodshed," said one demonstrator, whose face was hidden begin a black mask.

The suspect in Sviridov's shooting, Aslan Cherkesov, who is from the Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, is under arrest and claimed he was acting in self defence.

The violence followed a protest on Tuesday evening in which around 1,000 people blocked a Moscow highway and shouted racist slogans.

Meanwhile in Saint Petersburg, around 1,500 supporters gathered for a similar unauthorised protest.

Police arrested about 60 people when fans broke through a police cordon and stopped traffic on several major roads.

Spartak Moscow is one of the top Russian premiership sides and it has an impassioned support base in the capital.

As Russia prepares to host the 2018 World Cup, its football fans -- some of whom model themselves on British hooligans, wearing the same fashion labels and calling themselves "firms" -- will be closely watched by the authorities.

In July another Spartak fan, telejournalist Yury Volkov, was stabbed to death in a fight with men from the Russian Caucasus in a central Moscow park. A Chechen man has been charged with the crime.

The killing prompted fans to brandish banners with Volkov's name at matches and to hold several public protests.

© 2010 AFP

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