250 arrested in Moscow to prevent fresh ethnic clashes

Saturday, December 18, 2010

MOSCOW - Police in Moscow Saturday arrested at least 250 young Russians and migrants from the Caucasus region in a bid to avoid renewed street battles driven by ethnic tensions, the Interfax news agency reported.

Numerous weapons were confiscated as part of the arrests, a police spokesman told Interfax.

Heavily armed security forces dispersed an initially approved ultra-nationalist rally in the north of the capital, after some of the 500 estimated participants lit bonfires.

Police also detained 130 people near the city’s Red Square, where some 5,000 extremists had rioted and targeted migrants last weekend. According to police, most of the detainees where teenagers from Moscow’s outskirts.

President Dmitry Medvedev, meanwhile, called on Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev to have significantly more surveillance cameras mounted on central squares across the country to make it more difficult for rioters to escape unrecognised.

Ultra-nationalists and migrant groups have issued internet calls for new mass rallies in the capital. That led to the deployment of a large security contingent in several areas of the metropolis Saturday morning.

In the southwestern city of Samara, police also temporarily detained some 100 youths who had planned to gather in a park.

Tensions have been mounting in Russia for several days, with bloody clashes between Russians and migrants repeatedly flaring up.

Far-right extremists have called for revenge in the wake of the death of a football fan who was shot in a Moscow street, supposedly by Caucasus nationals he had been arguing with. Migrant workers have pledged to put up a fight.

On Wednesday, more than 1,300 people had been arrested during riots in Moscow, including numerous teenagers.

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