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Violent Mobs Attack Immigrants in Karelia

Published: September 5, 2006 (Issue # 1201)


The northwestern industrial town of Kondopoga was consumed by ethnic violence over the weekend, with angry and often drunken bands of Slavs waging an uncoordinated series of attacks on natives of the Caucasus.

The violence included mobs with Molotov cocktails burning down Caucasian-owned businesses and natives of the Caucasus being forced out of town. An air of fear and uncertainty permeated the town Sunday

The angry mobs, which left the town of 37,000 pockmarked with storefront fires and shattered glass, stemmed from a fight Wednesday evening outside the Chaika restaurant in which two ethnic Russians were killed.

A group of young ethnic Russians, including some ex-convicts, had been drinking in the restaurant that evening, an official at Karelia’s Interior Ministry said.

The men began arguing with the restaurant’s bartender. The argument led to a fight. The bartender, an Azeri, managed to escape but later returned with some friends, all natives of the Caucasus, bearing knives, baseball bats and iron rods. In the ensuing brawl, two ethnic Russians were killed; nine others, including Russians and natives of the Caucasus, were injured.

Police detained several suspects at the site of the brawl, including those suspected of having committed the two murders. That did not stop the Chaika and other Caucasian-owned businesses from being attacked Friday and Saturday; owners subsequently fled Kondopoga.

The angry mobs behind the violence appeared to have been galvanized, in part, by a local web site, Kcity.ru, which posted an appeal to town residents Friday to meet at the town square Saturday afternoon to protest the knifing of the ethnic Russians.

On Saturday, about 2,000 people showed up at the square. Speakers included the leader of the nationalist Movement Against Illegal Migration, Alexander Belov, who demanded the expulsion of natives of the Caucasus lacking residence permits.

Police officers told Interfax that all Caucasus natives had left the town by Saturday.

A Karelian Interior Ministry official confirmed Sunday that hundreds of natives of the Caucasus had been living in the town and that most of them had fled, while some had gone into hiding.

Saturday evening saw further attacks, mostly by young men and teenagers, on the Chaika restaurant and nearby kiosks and markets.

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