Anti-immigrant Russians rampage; Putin croons

Reporting on recent violence against immigrants by rightwing Russian nationalists, the Washington Post notes:

The Kremlin has spent the past decade nurturing nationalist sentiment in Russia, especially among the young. Now, hundreds and sometimes thousands of furious young men have been gathering at varying places around Moscow and other cities, shouting nationalist slogans, making fascist salutes and beating up darker-skinned people who appear to be from the Caucasus or Central Asia. A man from Central Asia was stabbed to death in the southern part of Moscow by a group of about 15 young people Sunday night or Monday morning, police reported.

On Saturday, several thousand young men clashed with police at Manezh Square, just outside the Kremlin. Eighty were briefly detained, but riot police chased most of the crowd into the subway, where they rampaged through the cars threatening non-Russians. Three natives of the Caucasus were stabbed and hospitalized, police said. On Sunday, crowds appeared at Pushkin Square and at Sokolniki Park, northeast of the center. Web sites promised more to come.
“Very strong political statements should have been made” against the rioters, Galina Kozhevnikova, deputy director of a human rights group called Sova, said Monday. “If the state is still silent, then the participants look at this as silent permission for more.”
Russia’s interior minister, Rashid Nurgaliyev, sought on Sunday to blame the riots on left-wing radicals, but the chants and slogans point to the right. At the same time, they speak to a broader sense of anger in Russian society that turns up regularly in polls and private conversations but rarely finds a way to express itself.

The government is clearly worried about extremism, but police tend to pick on graffiti writers rather than organizers, Kozhevnikova said. On Monday, President Dmitry Medvedev appeared on the Rossiya television channel to address the riots. “The recent events in Moscow, pogroms and attacks on people should be classified as crimes, and their perpetrators should be punished,” he said.

But his government seems to be walking a fine line. On Saturday, Medvedev’s deputy chief of staff told a meeting of Kremlin-sponsored youth groups, “Prepare yourselves for the polls, and train your brains and your muscles. You can always count on our support.”

Vladislav Surkov was meeting with leaders from the groups Nashi (Ours), Molodaya Gvardiya (the Young Guards) and other youth groups

And, no. A warm and cuddly Vladimir Putin singing “Blueberry Hill” at a charity event doesn’t balance things out.

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