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1,200 migrants detained in warehouse raid following violent Moscow riot

1,200 migrants detained in warehouse raid following violent Moscow riot
Moscow authorities have closed a vegetable warehouse and detained 1,200 people after a violent Sunday protest in Moscow’s residential area of Biryulyovo, where a young Russian was allegedly stabbed to death by a migrant last week.

A car with money and weapons has been found as Moscow police raided a warehouse which locals call the main attraction for migrants. On Sunday it turned into the scene of a mass anti-migrant protest, which ended with nearly 400 arrests. 

Police conducts mass detention during a raid at a vegetable warehouse in Zapadnoye Biryulyovo. (RIA Novosti/Grigoriy Sisoev)

A crowd of locals took to the streets in response for the fatal stabbing of a young Muscovite, which is now being blamed on a migrant. They now say the killing of a 25-year-old Russian was merely the last straw.  

Moscow nationalists and football fans were quick to use the situation to also take part in the protests. Initial gathering of locals was then supported by clearly anti-migrant attuned groups of people.

It appeared that locals have been calling on Moscow authorities to check the warehouse and relocate it to the outside of the city. As it is just 1km from the living area, people mainly complained about late hour work activity, noise from trucks, high levels of criminality and numerous migrants who rent apartments in the area. Dozens live in each apartment at the same time. Residents say to meet a Slavic-looking man after midnight is nearly impossible.

But authorities’ reply was diplomatic and short: “[Pokrovskaya] warehouse is a strategic object of food supplies for Moscow and, hence, the transfer is impossible.” 

Those supplies are mainly coming from Russia’s Republic of Dagestan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and other neighboring CIS states.

According to Magomed Tolboev, an honorary president of a company which manages the warehouse, with closing Pokrovskaya, Moscow may lose more than 5 percent of all food supplies.

“You cannot close it. You just keep it in order. Now let the police be responsible for [the suspect],” Tolboev told RSN radio station.

In his opinion, responsibility for what is happening lies on corrupt local authorities and law enforcement.

“This whole situation is to blame on corrupt practices of municipality leaders, administration and so on, who cover all this. They need to ask themselves why they give migrants nationality and a work permit without due process. We cannot look after thousands of people,” he said.

Now there are informally three main demands. First of all people want the young man’s killer to be found and prosecuted. Next, for the warehouse to be closed and heads of regional administration and police department to be sacked. They suspect the latter of running a protection racket involving the migrants. 

Another hot spot in Sunday’s rally was a shopping mall. Protesters destroyed it first, after unsuccessful attempts to try reaching authorities.

Some now say the reason why a crowd of 300 people decided to attack it is that the mall is an “enclave” of migrants, where they not only trade, but also hide from authorities. 

Reuters reported that another 450 were detained in northeastern Moscow, also near a vegetables market employing migrant workers. However Russian media reported that only 80 people were detained and the Russian Interior Ministry said that there was no connection with the Biryulyovo raid.

Police conducts mass detention during a raid at a vegetable warehouse in Zapadnoye Biryulyovo. (RIA Novosti/Grigoriy Sisoev)

For the last few years, people say, the situation in the area has remained tense because migrants are not polite to local residents.

“Are they guests? We are guests here and they are locals,” a woman from one of the apartment buildings in the area told the media. 

The first witness accounts given by a girlfriend of killed Muscovite Egor Shcherbakov also assert that the attacker, whom she described as a male native of the Caucasus, approached them first and tried to harass her. As her boyfriend moved to protect her, the man stabbed Egor in the heart.

The attacker managed to escape. Moscow police still do not know his whereabouts. A 1-million-ruble (around US$31,000) bounty has been placed for the capture of the suspect. 

Several suspects in the murder of Egor Shcherbakov have been detained, Moscow police chief Anatoly Yakunin said. He added that witnesses would be able to identify the suspects, and that the investigation is ongoing.

Flowers brought by residents of Zapadnoye Biryulyovo to the site of the murder of 25-year-old Moscowite Yegor Shcherbakov. (RIA Novosti/Grigoriy Sisoev)

Meanwhile, the Russian Migrants Federation has urged ethnic minority communities to remain on alert in the wake of disturbances of Biryulyovo.

"Attacks are likely in different parts of Moscow. Nationalists are in a very aggressive mood," Mukhammad Amin, the federation’s president, told Interfax, adding that migrants and foreign nationals should “stay away from public places."

Amin said he was in Biryulyovo and described the situation there as “very dangerous.”

“I could see hundreds of drunk young men and many nationalists," he said.

Aftermath of disturbances in Moscow's Biryulevo district. (RIA Novosti/Anton Denisov)