Brewing ethnic tensions in Moscow, sparked by the killing of a Russian man allegedly by a Muslim migrant from the Caucasus, prompted Russian security forces to detain a total of about 1,500 people over Sunday and Monday as a “preventive” measure, Russian media reported.
Clashes have risen in recent years in Russian cities between locals and migrants from Russia’s North Caucasus region, which is home to a dozen nationalities and languages but is predominantly Muslim. The latest incident began as a peaceful protest in the Biryulyovo district in the city's south against the fatal stabbing of Yegor Shcherbakov, a 25-year-old Russian man, but escalated rapidly into rioting that damaged buildings and vehicles.
The protesting mob was heard chanting “Russia for Russians,” among other nationalist slogans, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Shcherbakov was attacked on Thursday evening, when he was on his way home with his girlfriend, who described the attacker as a male native of the Caucasus and said that the attacker tried to harass her before stabbing her boyfriend, RT, Russia's state-owned publication, reported.
“The investigation has a video image of the suspected criminal, and is conducting a massive search operation,” Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.
On Monday, police detained 1,200 people who worked at a vegetable warehouse, one of several wholesale markets surrounding the city reportedly known for employing illegal immigrants and had come under attack from rioters. On Sunday night, about 380 people who took part in rioting were also detained, RIA Novosti reported.
Meanwhile, authorities in southern Moscow have begun devising measures to curb illegal immigration, and a new administrative body currently being set up is planning to crack down on apartments rented to illegal migrant workers and will organize sweeps based on tips from people, RT reported.
Security forces are expected to be deployed near Moscow’s major Islamic religious centers on Tuesday, on the eve of Kurban Bayram, a major Muslim festival.
The latest riots were the worst since a rampage in December 2010, when nationalist sentiments led to violence outside the Kremlin’s perimeter over the killing of a Russian man by a man from the Caucasus during a brawl following a soccer match.