Posted on May 30, 2007

Ethnic Brawl In Russia’s South Kills 1

Manchester Guardian, May 26, 2007

A brawl between hundreds of Caucasus migrants and local Russians—all armed with metal rods, clubs and knives—killed an ethnic Chechen in southern Russia, officials said Saturday.

The fighting began around midnight and continued into Friday morning at a park in Stravropol, some 1,000 miles south of Moscow, regional police said.

A dispute between an ethnic Chechen guard at a Stavropol casino and a local resident triggered the fighting, which ended when riot police fired warning shots into the air, authorities said.

Gelani Atayev, an ethnic Chechen who worked as a guard at the casino, was killed and eight others were injured, police said.

Police sought to downplay any ethnic element in the brawl, but Russia has seen a marked rise in xenophobia and racism in recent years, with repeated attacks on foreigners, Jews and dark-skinned migrants.

Rights groups say authorities do little or nothing to combat xenophobia, often prosecuting hate crimes as simple hooliganism.

Last August, a fight in the northwestern town of Kondopoga that left two local residents dead triggered anger against Chechen migrants blamed for the killings. In the days that followed, crowds burned a restaurant and stores owned by Chechens and other migrants from the Caucasus and demanded their eviction.