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27 Aug, 2007 10:45

Restaurant in Kondopoga rises from the ashes

A youth centre has opened in the town of Kondopoga in the northern Russian republic of Karelia. The centre is located on the site of the Chaika restaurant that burned down a year ago during ethnic clashes in the town.

It will house several community services, and will also have a cafe and dance floor.
Authorities say the centre is for the youth of the region and to commemorate the tragic events that took place there last year.
Violence broke out on the night of 30th August 2006.
The bartender of the Chechen-owned Chaika restaurant tried to calm a group of rough men. They hit back.
Half-an-hour later a group of ethnic Chechens arrived, allegedly armed with baseball bats.
In the ensuing fight two Russians were killed. Two days of riots followed in Kondopoga, with locals demanding the expulsion of ethnic Caucasians. The Chaika restaurant was set alight, and shops and market stalls owned by people from the Caucasus were also targeted.
“It happened when most of the Chechen community left the town. See how my shop looks like now. The police said even if they find those who did it, I'll get hardly any compensation,” complained Raisa Magomadova, local resident.
Last September’s violence has so far led to three court cases.
In March, two men were sentenced to prison terms for starting the restaurant fight.
And this summer, charges were brought first against six native Caucasians, five accused of assault and one of murder, and 12 Kondopoga residents suspected of participating in the riots.  Neither trial has yet reached a verdict.
Three policemen are also in court for not doing enough to stop the violence.
“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,” commented Anatoly Kucherena, a member of the Public Chamber.
Kondopoga remains one of the darkest pages in the catalogue of race-related crime in Russia. 
It sparked a wave of similar clashes across Russia, and several nationalist groups came out in support of the action.
The Russian government is examining legislation to make it easier to prosecute specifically race-related offences. But there is increasing pressure, both in Russia and from abroad, to do something to stop this growing trend.