Ethnic Brawls Leave 2 Dead in Russia’s Perm Krai

Karagai street fight. Source: NTVA small town in one of Russia’s central regions has become a new focal point for ethnic tensions in the country, and already has some analysts recalling the 2006 Kondopoga race riots. The Novy Region Information Agency reports (Rus) that Karagai, in the Perm Krai, has seen escalating levels of violence and bubbling aggression that has raised nationwide attention.

Over the past two weeks, two massive street brawls between ethnic Russians, Chechens and Azeris in the town have left two people dead, and eleven people seriously injured. The new head of the local militsiya, sent from the city of Perm to replace the old police chief, was also attacked and beaten by unknown assailants.

Law enforcement officials have meanwhile denied that the fights were ethnically motivated, and have blamed alcohol and individual enmity.

The first brawl took place in the final days of July, and was apparently started by a construction accident. A construction crane, operated by a Russian worker intoxicated on the job, fell onto a company building, killing an Azeri manager. The Russian was later violently assaulted, which set off sparks of anger in local workers and residents. The tension escalated further when the Azeri leadership of the company withheld back wages from some workers.

Combatants brought edged weapons to the ensuing street battle between Russian and Azeris. As result, seven people received knife wounds and two later perished in the hospital. Regional authorities then sent Perm police chief Yury Gorlov to investigate, and replaced a number of officers among the Karagai militsiya’s administration.

A second ethnic fight took place on the night of August 6th, when around 20 Russians and Chechens attacked one another at a local cafe. Law enforcement authorities later described it as a trivial drunken brawl, and did not file any charges. According to a police press-conference, the fight started over a woman.