Saturday, 15 June 2013

Karachayevo-Cherkessia Parliamentarians Demand Genocide Denial Be Designated a Criminal Offense

Regnum -- At the June 13 session of the National Assembly (Parliament) of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, deputies passed a resolution on submitting to the Russian State Duma a draft federal law "On Amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation", which prescribes penalties for denying  or trying to justify genocide, a correspondent for the REGNUM news agency reports.

Karachayevo-Cherkessia law-makers propose to add to Article 357.1 of the Criminal Code and introduce penalties for the public denial, justification, approval or understatement of the scale of acts of genocide (political repression) expressed at a meeting or other public event with the aim of defending those who committed these crimes, or with the aim expressing solidarity with them. It is proposed to introduce a penalty of up to 1 million rubles [$31,515, EUR 23,618], or compulsory works for a period of up to 320 hours. It is proposed to penalize the same acts committed via the mass media by a fine of up to 2 million rubles, or by imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.

The legislative initiative was initiated by the chairman of the committee on nationality policy, foreign relations, local government and non-profit organizations of the Karachayevo-Cherkessia Legislative Assembly, Ahmad Ebzeyev. The parliamentarian explained in an interview with REGNUM that the bill must undergo the procedure of approval by the State Duma Council before State Duma deputies begin to review it.

Commenting to REGNUM on this initiative by regional deputies, the author of the idea of criminalizing denial of instances of genocide, head of the Department of History of the Fatherland at the Karachayevo-Cherkessia State University, Doctor of Historical Sciences Professor Rustam Begeulov noted that a legislative ban on the justification or denial in the media, scientific publications or during mass events of repressions on ethnic, race, religious or class grounds should in the first instance reduce the intensity of the discussion of such issues. “This should strengthen the realization in society that any attempt to justify such crimes is inadmissible. The discussions have long since gone beyond a purely historical framework and are continually acquiring emotional and political overtones, all of which simply hinders normal research by scholars and historians whom first one side then the other tries to accuse of bias and taking the side of a particular nation,” Begeulov thinks.

We would remind you that the idea of introducing a bill criminalizing denial or justification of genocide was publicly proposed on 17 May at an international conference in Cherkessk entitled "The Rights of Repressed Peoples in the World Today (a propos the 70th Anniversary of the Deportation of the Peoples of Southern Russia)." The plans to introduce this bill were announced at  the conference by the keynote speaker, Karachayevo-Cherkessia parliament deputy speaker Ruslan Khabov, who is the leader of the public organization Karachai Alan Halk that represents the Karachais. His report analyzed the extent to which the basic legal acts of the Russian Federation concerning the rehabilitation of repressed peoples have been implemented, and expressed the intention of the regional parliament to propose to the State Duma including in the Criminal Code provisions for liability for the public approval or justification of all kinds of repression on the basis of ethnicity.

This article was published by REGNUM and is translated from Russian.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Sergei Bagapsh, Abkhazia’s Leader, Dies at 62, by Ellen Barry

The New York Times, MOSCOW — Sergei V. Bagapsh, who led the Black Sea enclave of Abkhazia through a tumultuous effort to gain independence from Georgia without being absorbed by Russia, died Sunday in Moscow. He was 62.

Mr. Bagapsh had successful surgery to remove growths on his lung on May 21, but succumbed to complications that ended in heart failure, medical officials told the Interfax news service.

The affable manner of Mr. Bagapsh, who governed Abkhazia as its president, concealed the strategic thinking of a chess player, a quality he used to maneuver the nationalist upheaval of the post-Soviet period. Though he was an ethnic Abkhaz, he married into a large Georgian family, and remained on good terms with his in-laws even as Abkhazia’s separatist war in the early 1990s tore the country apart.

The August 2008 war between Georgia and Russia was a victory for Mr. Bagapsh, who had long lobbied the Kremlin — or any other government, for that matter — to recognize Abkhazia as a sovereign nation. The slender wedge of beachfront land, once a cherished vacation spot for the Soviet nomenklatura, or ruling elite, was now under the protection of the Russian Army, and Mr. Bagapsh was received in Moscow as a bona fide head of state.

But he found himself in a far more difficult position than he had anticipated. Russians lined up immediately to grab prime real estate and privatize energy and transportation infrastructure, which could be crucial to preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Under extraordinary pressure from Russia to compromise, Mr. Bagapsh also had to answer domestic critics who accused him of selling off Abkhazia’s assets.

“After the August war, Abkhaz society — and this was also the tragedy of Bagapsh — is, if anything, more divided than it was before,” said Peter Semneby, the former European Union special representative to the South Caucasus, who met many times with Mr. Bagapsh.

“You have those who are very uncomfortable with the dominating role of Russia, and what they see as selling out, many of whom were behind the independence movement in the first place,” he said. “On the other hand, you have those who see a lot of economic opportunity. And these interests are very much being played out against each other.”

Both Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, and its prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin, said on Sunday that they would view Mr. Bagapsh’s body to say farewell in person.

His death will very likely usher in a competition for power in Abkhazia, with Russia and Georgia jockeying for direct access to the next leader. Candidates for early presidential elections, scheduled for three months from now, will most likely include Prime Minister Sergei M. Shamba, who has advocated a “multivector” foreign policy that includes alliances with Turkey and the West; Vice President Aleksandr Ankvab, a close ally of Mr. Bagapsh; and Raul Khajimba, a former K.G.B. officer who left government to head an opposition party.

It has proved difficult to manipulate Abkhaz politics in the past. In 2004, Russia threw its weight behind Mr. Khajimba: pop stars were flown in to hold free concerts in his name; Mr. Putin, then the president, appeared with him on billboards; Russian lawmakers threatened to cut off the tangerine imports that were the territory’s economic lifeline. Mr. Bagapsh’s opponents, meanwhile, suggested he would cave to pressure from Tbilisi because his wife was Georgian.

Mr. Bagapsh won anyway. Russia imposed an import blockade, so that tons of tangerines rotted in trucks at the border. But Mr. Bagapsh moved into the presidential headquarters and set about negotiating with Mr. Khajimba, eventually forming a coalition government.

Recalling that brutal political war in an interview two years ago, Mr. Bagapsh was characteristically easygoing.

“I understood that it was politics, and it would pass, and I was right,” he said. “All the people who swore at me, said I was a mafioso and a bandit and so forth — today, they are my friends.”

Guram Odishariya, a writer, grew up not far from Mr. Bagapsh in the Abkhaz capital, known in Georgian as Sukhumi and in Abkhaz as Sukhum, a city where men gather on an embankment to play chess. Mr. Bagapsh showed an early aptitude for the long game, he said.

“He is the kind of person who plays 15 steps ahead,” he said. “There are leaders who play a child’s game, but Bagapsh is not one of them.”


Sunday, 15 May 2011

Beware of Greeks bringing gifts, by Richard Berge

antigeopolitics, May 14 -- Ahead of the anniversary of the mass killings and forced exile of the Circassians from their ancestral lands in the Caucasus at the hands of the Russian Empire in the second half of the 19th century, which will be marked on the 21st of May, the parliament of Georgia has again mooted the possibility of recognising these events as genocide. The Circassian genocide has had a profound impact on Circassian history and national identity, and the process towards its recognition is given huge importance by many Circassians, especially among the diaspora in Turkey and the wider Middle East. However, until recently, no state has shown willingness to officially recognise the Circassians genocide as such. This changed in late 2010, when following a speech by president Mikhail Saakashvili, the process towards recognising the Circassian genocide was begun by the Georgian parliament. This process further sparked a conference on the Circassian genocide held in Tbilisi in March 2011, organised by the Jamestown Foundation and with the participation of the so-called American Committee for Peace in Chechnya, both known instruments of the US foreign policy establishment.

Since its failed bid to recapture the breakaway republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the 2008 August War, the Georgian overture towards the Circassians has formed part of a charm offensive to shore up support for Georgia among the peoples of the Russian North Caucasus, and drive a wedge between Russia and the peoples of the region. As seen from Tbilisi, the conflicts in the Georgian breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are merely the result of Russian efforts to destabilize an independent and sovereign Georgian state, and Georgia reckons that two can play this came. Ostensibly under the aegis of pan-Caucasian unity and solidarity, Georgian president Mikhal Saakashvili has ordered the abolition of visas to Georgia for citizens from North Caucasus republics, as well as the establishment of the Russian-language satellite TV channel “First Caucasian” or PIK in Russian. The idea was to give the inhabitants of the North Caucasus more possibilities for education and trade in Georgia, and also provide them with a source of “unbiased” information that is not controlled by the Russian government.

While Russian authorities have universally condemned Georgia’s moves, many in the North Caucasus republics themselves have been cautiously optimistic or supportive. However, there is considerable lingering distrust of the Georgian actions and their motives in the North Caucasus for historical and ideological reasons. The Circassians especially point to the role played by Georgia in the Russian conquest of the North Caucasus, where the Georgian nobility participated on Russia’s side against Circassians and other highlanders in the Great Caucasian War, which events eventually led to the Circassian genocide. Circassians also note what they see as double standards in Georgian dealings with them and what they see as their “brother nation”, the Abkhaz, especially in the light of Georgia’s attempts to suppress Abkhaz national aspirations during the 1992-1993 war in Abkhazia. In any case, it is widely believed that the Georgian conception of Caucasian unity is designed to further Georgia’s ambition to become a regional leader, a role which the other Caucasian peoples, fiercely independent and assured of their own position in the region, would naturally be wary to grant it.

There is also notable cause for concern when assessing the renewed Western interest in the Circassians and their predicament. Some Western opinion formers and policy makers acting through organisations such as the Jamestown Foundation have primarily the national interests of the West and the United States at heart, and seek to use the Circassians and other peoples of the North Caucasus as tools to further their own geopolitical agenda. This turn of events has historical precedents in British interest in the Circassian cause in the period running up to the Cirmean War, which even included pledges of military support to the Circassians in their fight against the Russian Empire. However, Circassian hopes in the British eventually turned out to be misplaced, as Britain abandoned all aid to the Circassians following the end of the war. Current Western support for the Circassians is not likely to be more reliable.

It is not at all clear either that recognition of the Circassian genocide by Georgia or other third parties would have the positive effect that Circassian nationalists, especially in the diaspora, are hoping for. Rather than force concessions from Moscow on cultural or political rights, or exact some form of apology and reparation for past wrongdoings, it is more likely that recognition will only harden the front between Russia and the Circassians and worsen the lot of Circassians currently living in Circassia. Examples here can be readily drawn from the efforts of many countries to recognise the Armenian genocide, which so far has failed to make Ankara relent on its position. In addition, the stubbornness by which recognition has been pursued, especially by the Armenian diaspora, have actually helped to further complicate the relationship between Armenia and Turkey, forestalling beneficial economic and diplomatic steps like the reopening of the Turko-Armenian border. Consequently, those among the Circassians who are prepared to accept outside support for their cause would do well to ponder who their allies are, and which possible consequences recognition could entail.

Richard Berge holds a BA in Politics and Georgian language from the School of Oriental and African Studies at University of London, and a MA in Politics, Security and Integration from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at UCL. He has worked for the Norwegian Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2009 and the European Centre for Minority Issues in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2010, focusing on human rights, freedom of information and minority rights in both countries. He is currently looking to publish his MA thesis on the political situation of the Armenian minority in Abkhazia.

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Sunday, 6 February 2011

Terrorism meets xenophobia in Russia, by Charles King and Rajan Menon

Terrorism meets xenophobia in Russia
Deadly tit-for-tat between ethnic Russians and North Caucasus migrants is escalating.

Los Angeles Times

By Charles King and Rajan Menon
February 6, 2011

If current demographic trends continue, within the next half-century Muslims will constitute a sizable part, perhaps even a plurality, of Russia's population; indeed, Moscow currently has more Muslim inhabitants than any other European city. And unlike those in Amsterdam or Paris, most of Moscow's Muslims are citizens, not immigrants — products of the Russian Empire's 19th century southward expansion. In the coming decades, Muslim peoples from Russia's North Caucasus and Volga regions, together with migrants from neighboring Central Asia and Azerbaijan, will continue to displace Russia's Slavic core and reshape how the country defines itself.

These shifts pose new challenges to Russia's stability. Last December, following the slaying of an ethnic Russian in Moscow, allegedly by a man from the North Caucasus, mobs of chanting youths took to the streets, arms raised in Nazi salutes. "Moscow for Muscovites," read one of their tamer bits of graffiti. Photos and video showed other young men — pummeled, bloodied and dark-haired — cowering behind a thin phalanx of police officers.

Russia has an undeniable terrorism problem emanating from its restive North Caucasus, a region featuring authoritarian politics and a growing Islamist insurgency. But it also has a xenophobia problem. Xenophobic mob attacks on Muslim minorities in the national capital and other major cities could make terrorism attacks occasions for additional bloodshed. This deadly tit-for-tat threatens, especially in the context of an economic crisis, to stoke ethnic and religious conflict, empowering Russia's increasingly visible ultranationalist forces.

The people targeted in the violent episodes exemplified by Moscow's December demonstrations were primarily from the North Caucasus, a mountainous stretch along Russia's southern border with Georgia and Azerbaijan. In the wake of two wars in Chechnya, an insurgency has gained ground across the area. That, along with poverty, joblessness and the indiscriminate roundups of young men by state security services, has spurred out-migration from the area since the 1990s.

The more chaotic the North Caucasus becomes, the larger the exodus of people to Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities, and in turn the greater the likelihood of violence between far-right hooligans and Russian Muslims.

Russia's leaders understand the stakes. President Dmitry Medvedev has labeled the North Caucasus his country's greatest internal problem. After the December riots, he denounced the fanatics for sowing disorder. Likewise, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned against extremism of all sorts.

Moscow has also tried to stabilize the North Caucasus. It has increased investment in Chechnya, seeking to rebuild the republic after the weakening of the insurgency there. Still, the other North Caucasus republics — unfamiliar places such as Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria — remain mired in poverty and unemployment. The Kremlin has sought to buy off power brokers in the region, hoping to rely on the local strongmen to keep order and crack down on suspected insurgents.

But this is not the kind of thoroughgoing reform that is needed. And the indiscriminate dragnets deployed against Muslim men in the region have driven even more young people to leave or to join the insurgency's ranks.

In the meantime, anti-migrant chauvinists in major cities farther north have made life even more miserable for those fleeing the North Caucasus. Politicians have inflamed the situation by painting all Muslim migrants as criminals and aliens. And the Russian media tend to denounce the chaos while ignoring the victims — unless they are ethnic Russians.

Russia has seen all this before. The eruptions of violence against neighbors who were also perceived as insidious outsiders marked Russia's early 20th century. Anti-Jewish pogroms in then-Russian cities such as Kishinev and Odessa assaulted one of the Russian Empire's most vibrant communities. But they also hurt Russia: by increasing emigration, staining the country's international reputation and creating a repertoire of violence against Jews that was reprised during the Bolshevik revolution and Russian civil war.

Then, as now, the thugs were a tiny part of the population. Neither today's extreme nationalists nor the Islamist terrorists are representative of the communities they claim to speak for — a point Medvedev, who has praised Islam as a vital part of Russian history, has been at pains to make.

It is a fine line the Russian government must walk. In responding to terrorism, the government must be careful to separate the terrorists from the rest of Russia's large Muslim community. Medvedev's use of the term "pogrom" to describe last December's riots is a step in the right direction. Without such clear signals from Moscow, Muslims in and from the North Caucasus — who, after all, have been the main victims of Islamist terrorism for years — will wonder whether the country they now call home is big enough to embrace them.

The Domodedovo Airport bombing points to the need for better intelligence and policing to protect all of Russia's citizens. Russia's creaking security services, often heavy handed and inefficient, have scored some remarkable successes against insurgents, and the airport attack will be another opportunity to reexamine the performance of state institutions. But the larger challenge for Russian citizens and their government involves coming to terms with a future in which the Muslim periphery is no longer so peripheral.

Charles King is a professor at Georgetown University and the author of "Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams." Rajan Menon is a professor of political science at City College of New York/City University of New York and the author of "The End of Alliances."

Friday, 17 December 2010

Cherkesov's relatives treat murder of "Spartak" fan as tragic accident

Caucasian Knot, Dec. 13, 2010 -- Relatives and friends of Aslan Cherkesov, a resident of Kabardino-Balkaria, suspected of murdering Yegor Sviridov, a football fan of "Spartak" in Moscow, consider what had happened to be a tragic accident, which was caused by a fatal coincidence.

"I know the pain of loss," said Sonya Cherkesova, Aslan's mother, "six months ago I buried my elder son. I express my sincere and heartfelt condolences to the mother of the deceased boy. Along with that, I want to declare to the whole world: my son is not a killer! He could not kill a man just so - whatever they talk about him!"

The traumatic pistol from which the fatal shot was made belonged to Aslan Cherkesov for two years. "He's never used it during this time," his mother said. "I know my son: if his life had not been in real danger, he wouldn't have used it this time either."

The "Caucasian Knot" has reported that Sviridov was shot dead from a traumatic pistol at night on December 6 in Moscow in a mass brawl. Not far from the place of the incident militiamen detained Aslan Cherkesov, 26, a resident of Kabardino-Balkaria and found a traumatic pistol on him. Under decision of the court, Aslan Cherkesov was detained for two months - till February 6, 2011. Cherkesov himself declared his innocence, saying that his actions were self-defence, and he fired blindly, without aiming.

According to his relatives, Cherkesov with his friends was in the bar at "Rechnoy Vokzal". His three friends went out a bit earlier, while he paused to buy cigarettes. When he went out, his friends were lying on the pavement, and four persons were beating them. Aslan had his arms twisted out, and he was thrown on a car hood. Then, according to his story, they started choking him. When he saw a "rosettes" (a broken bottle neck with sharp edges looking like petals) in hands of one of the attackers, he pulled his pistol out of the back pocket of his trousers and made three shots into the air. The fourth shot was fatal.

Sonya Cherkesova does not deny that her son had administrative offences: "But those were minor offences; the murder, of which my son is accused, is quite a different thing."

"Journalists write that Aslan did not study anywhere and did not work. They try to make a complete 'rogue' out of him. I am very indignant with this, it's a lie! My brother has higher education, he worked as a rescue in the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE), and then was engaged in real estate business - he worked in a realtor company," said Ann Cherkesova.

Besides, the woman was furious that her brother was announced to be a nationalist: "How can he be a nationalist, when he has a Russian wife, who was pregnant with his child?"

Ann told the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent about her intention to meet the family of the deceased young man. "Despite the threat to kill us, arriving from 'Spartak' fans, we'll surely meet the family of Yegor Sviridov to tell them that we are very sorry about what has happened," she said.

See earlier reports: "Rally of football fans in Moscow escalated into clash with OMON fighters," "In Moscow, 3000 fans commemorate "Spartak" fan killed in a mass brawl," "Spartak fans against RFU's refusal to toughen punishment to Anzhi."

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Thursday, 16 December 2010

Fearing Clashes, Police Detain Scores

Riot police officers detaining young men they suspect of seeking to stage interracial riots outside the Kievsky train station in Moscow on Wednesday.

By Natalya Krainova - The Moscow Times

Thousands of riot police patrolled downtown Moscow on Wednesday, detaining at least 800 people, conducting pat-downs and closing the Yevropeisky shopping center and access to the nearby Kievskaya metro station to stave off violence in the area.

Police feared that thousands of young people, inflamed over the killing of an ethnic Russian in a brawl with Caucasus natives on Dec. 5 and a subsequent riot by ethnic Russians that targeted Caucasus natives last weekend, would heed online calls to stage a violent rally in front of the Yevropeisky mall at 6 p.m.

Hundreds of young people — Caucasus natives and ethnic Russians — gathered in the vicinity of the mall on Wednesday evening, many of them chanting “Russia for Russians” and “Moscow for Muscovites.”

Police detained anyone whom they considered a potential threat, dragging them to waiting police buses.

“The situation in Moscow is under the control of law enforcement agencies. Residents have no reason to feel threatened,” police spokesman Viktor Biryukov said, Interfax reported.

But the situation remained tense late Wednesday, with many young people itching for a fight. A Moscow Times reporter overheard four boys aged 14 to 15 discussing how to carry out an attack on Caucasus natives as they drank alcoholic cocktails near the Noviye Cheryomushki metro station. “Now we’re going to find a [racial epithet] to beat,” said one. “What’s most important is to make sure that there are no cops around.”

A 20-year-old Caucasus native was hospitalized after he was beaten in a Moscow region commuter train by a group of about 20 young people screaming nationalist slogans, a police source told Interfax.

Shortly before 6 p.m., a fight broke out between ultranationalists and Caucasus youth, some of them armed with baseball bats and metal rods, on Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya, near the Yevropeisky mall. At least five people were injured, Interfax reported.

Riot police were also patrolling Manezh Square, where 5,500 football fans and nationalists angered over the death of football fan Yegor Sviridov, 28, staged an unsanctioned rally that turned violent Saturday when protesters attacked a group of Caucasus natives who passed by.

The Japanese Embassy recommended that its nationals stay off Moscow streets because “riots are possible,” an embassy source told Interfax.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin promised Tuesday to deal harshly with anyone who attempted a repeat of Saturday’s violence. President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the police to punish those responsible and offered assurances on Twitter that the authorities remained in control.

But in the hours after Saturday’s riot, a message appeared online that called for revenge and was attributed to a Caucasus blogger.

“I call on you to arm yourselves if possible and have no fear and not to hide at home,” said the blogger’s message. “We will decide at the scene about further actions.”

The call, which bloggers said was first posted on the social network but was deleted by late Saturday, was reposted more than 3,300 times on LiveJournal by late Wednesday.

Police have downplayed the message as a provocation by ultranationalists, but many young people appear to have heeded the call.

By late Wednesday, police had detained at least 800 people, including 400 near the Yevropeisky mall, police spokesman Biryukov said. Many of those detained were Caucasus natives carrying air guns and other weapons, he said. Other reports said the number of detainees reached 1,200.

About 600 young people chanting nationalist phrases and obscenities marched from Kievsky Station toward nearby Bolshaya Dorogomilovskaya Ulitsa, Interfax reported. Riot police walked beside the crowd, blocking an attempt by several dozen youth to shut off Bolshaya Dorogomilovskaya Ulitsa to traffic, RIA-Novosti reported.

By 6 p.m., the Yevropeisky mall and the exit from the Kievskaya metro station were closed.

The threat of violence hung over other cities as well. About 60 people were detained near Sennaya Ploshchad in St. Petersburg on suspicion of planning a riot, Interfax reported, citing local police. In downtown Samara, about 100 young people were detained on suspicion of planning to hold an unsanctioned gathering, local police told Interfax.

North Caucasus leaders urged young people to refrain from violence. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov warned at a news conference late Tuesday that “pressure” would be placed on any Chechens who took part in rallies in Moscow.

“If any one of our Chechen young men allows himself to take part in mass protests in Moscow … he will be pressured through his family and friends according to our traditions and customs, which do not tolerate disobedience,” he said.

Said Amirov, mayor of the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, called on Caucasus natives to opt for “a dialogue on the level of people of authority representing the conflict parties” instead of rallying on Moscow’s streets, RIA-Novosti reported.

The All-Russian Association of Fans also asked football fans not to take part in rallies Wednesday “because it might have a negative effect on the fan community,” association head Alexander Shprygin told Interfax.

Meanwhile, the security services were searching the Internet for extremist speech and determining IP addresses of those who posted extremist messages, RIA-Novosti reported, citing an unidentified senior security official.

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Far right goes on rampage during anti-immigrant clashes in Moscow

Many of the demonstrators shouted nationalist slogans and gave Nazi salutes.

By Shaun Walker in Moscow - The Independent

Police detained around 1,000 people in central Moscow yesterday in an attempt to contain ethnic tensions between Russian nationalists and migrant workers – sparked by the killing of a football fan – from flaring into pitched street battles.

Thousands of riot police patrolled locations across the city, including the Kiev Station, where there were rumours that a massed fight could take place between the two groups. Police checked documents and confiscated knives and other weapons, calling on the crowds to disperse and detaining anyone who disobeyed orders, herding them into waiting buses.

The Russian capital has been tense since the weekend, when protests over the murder of Yegor Sviridov, a Spartak Moscow football fan, turned violent. Mr Sviridov was killed earlier this month, allegedly shot dead by a native of Russia's troubled, mainly Muslim, North Caucasus region.

On Saturday, thousands of football fans and nationalists packed Moscow's Manezh Square, near the Kremlin, and began attacking anyone of a non-Slavic appearance. In terrifying scenes, riot police had to tell bloodied victims to hide under cars as they fought off the angry mob and waited for reinforcements. After the fighting on the square was brought under control, mobs of youths entered the metro system, and proceeded to pull people who looked non-Russian from trains and assault them on the platform. Dozens were injured.

Yesterday, nationalist groups said they were planning to meet again, while the Russian blogosphere had been awash with rumours that hundreds of Chechens and other natives of the North Caucasus were travelling to Moscow to exact revenge for Saturday's attacks. The fear was of a clash between two heavily armed gangs bent on revenge.

In the end, while the police detained hundreds, there was little in the way of fighting. Groups of nationalists shouted "Russia for Russians!" and "Moscow for Muscovites", while scuffles broke out at various locations across the Russian capital. But the serious battles that had been expected did not materialise, and most of those detained were released shortly afterwards.

The situation in the Russian capital remains tense, however, with nationalist leaders using rhetoric designed to stoke tension. "Today Moscow is a dangerous city, mainly due to immigrants from the North Caucasus and Central Asia," said Alexander Belov, a nationalist figurehead who formerly led the Movement against Illegal Immigration. "Russia is now a battleground. If you go out unarmed, you have minimal chance of surviving. I call on every Russian to carry a gun or at least a knife – not to do so is an act of criminal irresponsibility."

President Dmitry Medvedev has called for order and promised that those provoking riots will be punished.

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