Russia must clamp down on all forms of extremism, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said yesterday following a series of racist riots in Moscow and other cities.
“Russia must suppress all manifestations of extremism, on all sides, wherever they may come from,” Putin said in a regular question-and-answer session with the Russian people that was televised nationally. “We should not be painting people from the Caucasus or people of other nationalities with the same broad strokes.”
Putin’s comments came a day after police detained more than 1,000 youths in Moscow and other cities in a national security sweep aimed at staving off ethnic riots from erupting following the deadly shooting of a soccer fan by a Muslim suspect.
The police’s handling of previous demonstrations, particularly those staged by the opposition, have come under strong criticism by Russian human rights groups and international organizations.
Putin defended the work of the police, saying that the law enforcement authorities played a vital function for the state.
“We must strictly suppress any extreme manifestations, and our society — including our liberal public — must understand that,” he said.
“There has been a lot of fair criticism about the work of the law enforcement authorities, including that of the police, but we must understand that these law enforcement authorities are performing a vital function for the state, and that their work should not be ridiculed,” he said.
Sniping at Russia’s sidelined liberal opposition, he added: “Otherwise, our liberal intelligentsia will have to shave off its beards and put on [police] helmets and walk on the squares themselves.”
The arrests in Moscow on Wednesday came as nationalist youths rampaged throughout the city for the second time this week, shouting racist slogans and calling for the death of immigrants.
The unrest, four days after 5,000 rioters caused carnage outside the Kremlin walls, upended the city as night descended. About 30 people were reportedly injured, with five taken to hospital. Police confiscated airguns, knives and at least one samurai sword.
Nationalist blogs had called for Russians to gather at Kievsky railway station in central Moscow to continue protests over the death by shooting on Dec. 6 of a Spartak supporter during a fight with men from the Caucasus.
Hundreds of nationalist youths, including many young women, gathered at the station while hundreds more spread across the city. A smaller number of men from the Caucasus met with the aim of fighting back.
Several clashes were reported.
The make-up of the crowd was much younger, and seemingly less aggressive, than the one that gathered on Saturday.
“We came here because they screw our women, rape our women,” said Vadim, 15, referring to migrants from the Caucasus. “We want them out of Moscow.”