September 3, 2006

Racial riots, looting hit Russian town

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Hundreds of people looted shops and
burned a restaurant belonging to Caucasus businessmen in an
outbreak of racial violence in northwestern Russia triggered by
the recent killing of two locals, Russian media said on Sunday.

Special police were sent into the town of Kondopoga in
Karelia, to quell a riot sparked by a rally of up to 2,000
locals demanding the eviction of all Caucasus-born traders.

Hundreds of people -- many drunk -- marched through the
town and looted shops held by Caucasus businessmen. They later
stoned and burned down a restaurant were the two locals were
killed in a brawl last week. The deaths are blamed on Caucasus

Looters were on the rampage until early morning on Sunday
in the town near the Finnish border, setting ablaze several
more shops and cars before police finally regained control,
said independent radio Ekho Moskvy.

Amateur video footage run on Russian television channels
featured police in full riot gear flanked nearby but not
interfering while the crowd was plundering the restaurant.

There were no reports on casualties after the riot.

Regional head Sergei Katanandov, speaking on Karelian
television, appealed for restraint although he said he
understood "the justified anger and indignation of citizens."
He said more than 100 looters had been detained.

"Inter-ethnic hatred surfaced in Kondopoga after the
killing, and it was exploited by hooligans who provoked
disturbances and set shops on fire," Interfax news agency
quoted him as saying.

Ekho Moskvy said Kondopoga was still tense, while the local
council was awaiting a response from Karelia's parliament to
its demand to officially evict all Caucasus residents from the

"The authorities do not rule out new riots," the radio

Police were not immediately available for comment. Official
Rossiya television said this was a "commercial dispute."

Outbursts of racial violence are not uncommon in Russia
where xenophobia has flourished since the collapse of

Last month a bomb at a Russian market selling Asian goods
killed 11 people, mostly from ex-Soviet Central Asia. Three men
have detained on suspicion of racially-inspired crime.