Yegor Shcherbakov was an ethnic Russian man who was returning to his home in Moscow on Sunday night who, after a dispute with a North Caucasus man over Shcherbakov’s girlfriend, was stabbed to death. Shcherbakov’s death sparked a race-related riot, with hundreds of protesters invading Biryulyovo, a working-class area of southern Moscow, targeting a fruit warehouse where the suspected killer supposedly worked.
Tensions were already high between ethnic Russians and the migrant workers that populate the mostly-Muslim North Caucasus region. Many ethnic Russians think ill of the migrants, whom they often accuse of raising the crime rate and of taking jobs away from ethnic Russian people. Many people gathered at a market place near Biryulyovo, voicing their support of the riots as protesters turned over cars, smashed windows, and threw trash cans, as well as invading the warehouse. Hundreds of protesters were detained, but only two were arrested, and seventy more were fined.
These anti-migrant riots have ignited a strange response from Russian police; where they failed to arrest the non-migrant rioters, they made up for by arresting the migrant workers who were threatened. The warehouse that was raided and destroyed by the rioters was shut down for using migrant labor, and thousands of migrant workers have been detained or arrested by the police as a result of the riots.
Fear of repeated incidents similar to the 2010 Moscow riots by soccer fans and North Caucasus natives over the killing of an ethnic Russian man seems to be the source of this strange response. Many ethnic Russians seem complicate, if not downright pleased, by this backlash against migrant workers; retiree Elvira Ablosimova referred to the rioters as “patriots,” and said that their “little riot… attracted attention (to the issue).” The issue being the commonly held belief that migrant workers are in cahoots with politicians and employers to slight ethnic Russians from job opportunities.
The actual stabber has yet to be found, but thousands of migrant workers are still detained at this time.[Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.]