The murder of a young ethnic Russian, blamed on a Caucasus native, triggered massive anti-migrant rioting in the Russian capital in a fresh sign of mounting ethnic tensions .
Thousands of people in Biryulyovo, a working-class district in southern Moscow, took to the streets on Sunday night to protest alleged police inaction in capturing the killer of a 25-year old Russian man three days earlier. Egor Shcherbakov was stabbed in the heart when he defended his girlfriend from an aggressive migrant, presumably of Azerbaijani origin.
Rioters shattered windows in a local shopping centre, overturned cars and smashed street stalls. They beat several non-Russians and broke into a vegetable warehouse in search of migrant workers before police reinforcements could bring the situation under control after midnight, arresting 380 protesters. Two dozen people, including nine policemen, were injured in the clashes. Local residents said they had long complained about the influx of migrants who commit other crimes, while police took no action.
On Monday, authorities closed the warehouse which had been attacked the previous night and rounded up 1,200 migrant workers for identity checks. Sunday’s riots were the worst since 2010 when there were protests over a Russian’s killing.
Russia has the world’s second largest number of immigrants after the United States. According to official statistics, there are over 11 million legal migrant workers and 3 million illegal immigrants, mostly from former Soviet states, which have a visa-free arrangement with Russia. However, unofficial estimates put the number much higher, at 10-12 million.
Migrant workers are a major source of enrichment for police and other government officials who collect bribes for issuing residence and work permits.
This has led to violent protests by locals in many Russian cities.