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Murder sparks nationalist rallies in Russian town

Murder sparks nationalist rallies in Russian town
Residents of the southeastern Russian town of Pugachyov staged a fourth day of mass protests on Wednesday demanding that ethnic Chechens be forcefully removed from the area after a local Russian man was stabbed to death, allegedly by a Chechen teenager.

Fifteen witnesses have been questioned over the matter.

Deputy Governor of the Saratov Region Denis Fadeev has met with the protesters and stressed that the local authorities won’t let the locals resort to lynching.

“We really want to put things right in the area, with the local residents. Trust me, we also want those who come here to live by the rules, to act by law and cultural traditions,” he explained.

During the meeting, locals demanded that all the Chechen population of the town should be evicted – even those acting within the law. The protesters also urged the authorities to shut down all the bars and restaurants that serve alcohol in the town.

On Tuesday, a crowd of protesters gathered in Pugachyov’s main square, demanding that authorities thoroughly investigate the incident and provide increased security throughout the town. 

The demonstrators urged the local government to come out and speak to them. After their request was ignored, several hundred demonstrators marched on the motorway between the cities of Saratov and Samara, bringing traffic to a standstill. 

Despite calling for increased security on the streets, protesters demanded that local authorities - including the local police head - be fired. They also tried to destroy and set fire to a nearby café which is popular among local North Caucasus natives.

Police attempted to stop the protesters, but it was only after the vice governor of Saratov region, Denis Fadeyev, arrived at the scene that people agreed to disperse. A crowd of angry locals then continued to a nearby community center to discuss their complaints with Fadeyev. 

People gathered in Pugachyov's central square for the rally after a local resident was stabbed to death by a teenager from Chechnya (RIA Novosti)

But the meeting failed to yield any meaningful results, according to local journalist Anton Naumlyuk. “The authorities have promised, the residents have asked. The investigation continues,” he tweeted.

He also tweeted that the residents vowed to resort to vigilante justice if the results of the investigation did not satisfy them.

The mass protests were sparked after a 16-year-old ethnic Chechen allegedly killed 20-year-old Russian paratrooper Ruslan Marzhanov in a brawl.

The fight reportedly erupted after the suspect hit on Marzhanov’s girlfriend, thereby angering the paratrooper.  One week after the conflict – on July 6 – the two men met for a fight which resulted in the suspect stabbing the paratrooper with a scalpel. The victim died of multiple wounds after being transported to the hospital.

A criminal case was launched into the incident and the teenage suspect was arrested the same day. The 16-year-old has reportedly confessed to the killing.

Image from maps.google.com

Marzhanov’s friends and family staged a demonstration following his July 7 funeral. Around 100 protesters headed to an area of town heavily populated by ethnic Chechens, sparking clashes between the two sides. Police quickly arrived at the scene and were able to break up the fight.

Valery Radaev, governor of the Saratov region, has promised that the incident will be thoroughly investigated. He stressed that the person responsible for the murder will be punished according to the law, and urged residents not to resort to lynching.

Speaking at a demonstration, the victim’s mother said that she wants Chechens to return home to the North Caucasus. A representative of Russia’s Republic of Chechnya, Said Elesov, was present at the Tuesday rally and offered Marzhanov’s mother an apology.

Russia’s Civic Chamber also reacted to the events. “I’m sure that a special inter-departmental commission should be created after such a high-profile case, attracting the community and conducting a thorough investigation,” Civic Chamber member Vladimir Slepak said in a statement.