Moscow police arrested more than 1,000 youths Wednesday in a massive security sweep aimed at staving off another ethnic riot erupting following the deadly shooting of a football fan by a Muslim suspect.
AFP reporters at the central Moscow Kievsky train station — the site at which the big clash was reportedly being scheduled through the Internet — saw dozens of young men and girls as young as 13 being led away in handcuffs by helmeted riot police.
The youth chanted “Russia for Russians!” and raised the right arms in Nazi salutes as arrests continued throughout the expansive central Moscow square into the night hours.
Police said the city-wide operation involved 3,000 officers and resulted in the arrest of more than 1,000 people and seizure of everything from stun guns to knives and other small arms.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin huddled with his most senior security officers in a bid to organise a response to the sudden security crisis as small fights flared across the city centre despite the overwhelming presence of the police.
Similar incidents were also reported in Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg as organised members of the far right descended on a major square that stands in the heart of the city amid modern shops and busy metro stations.
Gangs of Muslims were reported to be planning a counter-rally at Kievsky and a major Russian nationalist movement called on its supporters to come armed to the site.
“Trust only yourself and those close to you,” a Twitter feed used by Russia’s far right instructed its followers as the hour of the big street battle approached.
“Do not panic and remove your women, children and the elderly from the streets,” the message added. “Victory is ours!”
Saturday’s racism-tinged demonstration and ensuing tensions have exposed the many problems confronting Russia one week after it was awarded the right to host the 2018 World Cup.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that such riots threatened “the stability of the state.”