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21 Aug, 2007 07:35

Racial violence goes on trial in provincial Russian town

A court hearing is underway into racially-motivated violence in Russia's North-Western city of Kondopoga in the Republic of Karelia that occurred last September. Twelve people are charged with taking part in massive riots and damaging property owned by pe

Eleven of the twelve charged, have admitted some responsibility.
The riots were sparked by a scuffle between locals and people from the North Caucasus, which left two people dead and nine injured.

“The Kondopoga city court has started a criminal investigation into ethnic riots last September.  The local prosecutor’s office says over a hundred people took part in them. Twelve people are being charged with setting municipal and private property on fire, including outlets run by people from the North Caucasus area. If found guilty, they could face up to eight years in prison,” according to local reporter Oleg Gornovsky.
The violent clashes in Kondopoga in the first days of September, 2006, started after a restaurant brawl between ethnic Russians and Chechens that left two Russians dead.
The restaurant ‘Chaika’, which was owned by a Chechen, was burned down by angry mobs who also destroyed a street market and several shops also owned by people of ethnic Caucasus origin.  As a result, many natives of the Caucasus who lived in the area were forced to flee in fear for their lives.
The violence was accompanied by street rallies demanding the expulsion of immigrants.
Although six people were arrested no one has yet been charged for the murders. The trial continues at the Supreme Regional Court. Three policemen are also on trial for not doing enough to stop the brawl.   
“As for the local authorities, I’ve said it several times before, they could have prevented these bloody events if only they understood and evaluated the situation in Kondopoga correctly,” Anatoly Kucherena, Public Chamber Member, stated.
The event raised some important issues facing Russian society. Several nationalist parties expressed their support for the rallies and some even seemed to endorse the riots.
Soaring unemployment and conflicts have forced many natives of the Caucasus to leave in search of work elsewhere in Russia.