Central Moscow rocked by football rioting
Moscow riot police have cleared the capital's Manezh Square just northwest of the Kremlin of thousands of angry football fans outraged by last Monday's killing of the Spartak supporter Yegor Sviridov. The man died of wounds moments after being gunned down by a visitor from Kabardino-Balkaria in the Russian Caucasus, named Aslan Cherkesov.
The Manezh Square trouble started on Saturday afternoon after dozens of rioters shouting ultranationalist slogans started savagely kicking three men from the North Caucasus. Riot squads quickly surrounded the square and used loudspeakers to try to persuade the crowd to disperse. The response was a hail of rocks, bottles, metal rods, fires and squibs.
Reinforcements arrived, but could not calm down the crowd before making repeated shield and baton charges.
Appearing on the site, Moscow's police chief General Vladimir Kolokoltsev pledged immediate action to investigate any wrongdoing by police officers who released five of the men who attacked Yegor Sviridov. He also appealed for calm.
"If you insist there must be order in Moscow's streets, then comply with regulations yourselves and mobilize patience to wait until investigators complete their work".
At least eight people are known to have received serious injuries in the riot. One lighter casualty is a cameraman for the RIA-Novosti news agency. He received blows to his head and had his camera smashed.
The square is now empty, 65 of the rioters are being held. Earlier in the day, several thousand commemorated Sviridov at a rally in Kronstadt Boulevard in northern Moscow. The site was close to a bus stop where Sviridov was attacked and died at approximately half past midnight on Monday. The clash involved a dozen men, half of them Spartak supporters, and the others, visitors from the North Caucasus. The killer was Aslan Cherkesov, he hit Sviridov in the head with four bullets from a traumatic handgun.
Russian football fans clash with police over death of supporter
Published: 11 December, 2010, 16:11
Edited: 11 December, 2010, 22:17
RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin
Thousands of football fans have gathered in Moscow and St. Petersburg to commemorate the death of a Spartak Moscow supporter, Yegor Sveridov. The 28-year-old was shot dead in a brawl last Sunday. The center of Moscow is returning to normal following rioting on Manezhnaya Square on Saturday.What started out as a peaceful, sanctioned rally of demonstrators on Kronshtadsky Boulevard turned violent as angry mobs broke away and moved toward the Kremlin. St. Petersburg, where yet another rally took place, was also the scene of violence. The protesters started throwing ice and bottles at the police, and a sizable number of reinforcements were immediately deployed to the area. Over 60 people were detained in St. Petersburg, bringing the total number of those detained in today's riots to more than 120. The police believe that is the number of instigators behind the violence. So far 29 people have been hospitalized, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.
According to police sources, many of the demonstrators only came out to pay their respects, but things quickly got out of hand when some people decided to provoke clashes between the protesters and riot police. "Some people have reacted very violently to the death of the Spartak fan," Moscow's chief of police, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, told RT. "I do believe that some of their dissatisfaction is understandable, but it is unacceptable when we have aggression with firecrackers that burst into flames and ordinary people suffer. We will take all the necessary measures not to let anything like that happen again, so that the authorities are not accused of ineffectiveness in handling the killing of Yegor Sviridov. Police have already arrested those responsible for the murder and will arrest others.
Everyone is equal before the law." It seems fighting was not caused by soccer fans, who were allegedly in the
center of Moscow for a commemorative rally. Most of the violence was instigated by various neo-nationalist groups, such as the Movement against Illegal Immigration. Witnesses said they were shouting racist slogans and attacking people of different ethnicities.
Boris Kagarlitsky, a political analyst at the Russian Institute of Globalization Studies and Social Movements, thinks the authorities did not take the neo-nationalist problem seriously enough. "Those who are behind the riots want to destabilize the situation, and they definitely want to change the social and political agenda in the country," he said.
It's all quiet right now in the center of Moscow, but there is an increased police presence in the Metro, because many of those who were in the center left underground. A group of people were detained in the Metro after attacking some innocent passengers and trying to provoke riot police. This afternoon in Moscow, a large number of mask-wearing hooligans were seen ripping out park benches, street signs and throwing bottles and flares at police.
Officers used bullhorns to appeal to the crowd not to get into any kind of hooliganism or vandalism. While riot police were trying to disperse the demonstrators, the organizers of the demonstration were seeking a meeting
with police chiefs to protest what they saw as inaction after the shooting of their fellow fan, Interfax reports.
Moscow Police Chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev arrived at Manezhnaya Square at around 4:30 p.m. At first he watched the scene from the edge of the square, but afterward he met with some of the fans and promised a thorough investigation into Yegor Sviridov's killing.
He addressed the protesters through a bullhorn, promising that all participants in the brawl that resulted in Sviridov's death will be detained and punished. He reminded them that the suspected shooter had been arrested, but that the others suspected of being involved in the fight had been released. "This decision will be examined." Kolokoltsev assured the fans, according to Itar-Tass . "I promise you that all participants will be detained and procedural judgement will be taken."
Many of the soccer fans had gathered to express their feelings over the killing of Sviridov, but others seemed to be set on causing trouble. Fans from the Fratria movement, which is made up of Spartak Moscow FC
supporters, gathered in central Moscow for an unsanctioned rally last Wednesday over the death of Sviridov. Supporters of other clubs joined them and called for the authorities to conduct a quick and thorough investigation to find and punish the killers.
The Fratria group wrote an open letter to the head of the Russian Investigative Committee asking the official to take the case under his personal control. The rally organizers and police said about 1,000 people attended the demonstration, as RT reported Wednesday. Riot police were almost immediately dispatched to the site. The officers did not detain any of the fans. They persuaded them not to obstruct traffic and to disperse.
Yegor Sviridov, 28, was killed in a fight involving some 10 people near 37 Kronshtadtsky Boulevard in Moscow's Golovinsky district, after being shot with a gun designed to fire rubber bullets just after midnight on Sunday. Sviridov, who sustained four injuries, including to his head, died on the spot. It is believed that the gun designed to fire rubber bullets had been modified to fire live rounds. A friend of his was also wounded and is in the hospital in serious condition, Interfax reported. A 26-year-old man named Aslan Cherkesov from the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria in the Northern Caucasus was charged with homicide, and two more people have been charged with instigating a fight. Immediately after Sunday's incident, people took to the streets. It became more that just a dispute between Spartak fans and Northern Caucasus nationals, turning into a racial fight involving Russian nationalists. Over the past week things have escalated, culminating in the events of today. The actions of Spartak fans not only caused problems for the Russian police, but can actually cause problems for their soccer team.
Players had to leave the field twice in Slovakia on Wednesday night as Spartak fans invaded the pitch and threw flares in their final Champions League group match. Spartak Moscow could be disqualified from the Europa League after crowd trouble in their match against Zilina. UEFA is now waiting for a match report from the referee and delegate for the match, Kevin Blom and Bontcho Todorov. An investigation into the events will then follow.
Fred Weir, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, thinks that Russia can learn a lot from other European countries that have had similar problems with soccer and nationalist passions erupting into
violence. This is especially important, he pointed out, prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. "Russians seem to be pretty resilient and not that receptive to racist appeals," he said. "I think that we should not immediately leap to the conclusion that there's racist violence running amok in Moscow."
Dec 11, 2010 19:20 Moscow Time