Hundreds of youths gathered in North Moscow to commemorate the 40th day since the death of a Russian football fan. Yegor Sviridov was murdered in December, allegedly by natives of the North Caucasus. Shortly afterwards Russian nationalists took to the streets in revenge. Critics say such violence shows a troubled young society.
As helicopters loomed overhead and scores of police were on standby, the atmosphere was that of expectation. Russian news sources reported that thousands would take part in Saturday's commemoration of the death of Yegor Sviridov, 28, a Muscovite and Spartak football team supporter. For an hour people gathered with red carnations at the nearest Metro station before walking down to the place where Sviridov was killed on December 5.
Most of those present were young nationalists and when asked why they were there, they said it was not because they knew Sviridov, but because he was Russian. One young man, Nikita told VOA he was there because he thought that the killing of a Russian was not acceptable.
He said that it was especially wrong to kill a Russian because Russians were natives.
One teenager who was there with a group of friends said that he was there because he felt a discrimination against Russians. He said if any Caucasian shouts glory to their country - then he is considered a patriot. But if we shout "Russia for the Russians," we break 282 clause of the criminal code, which forbids incitement of racial hatred. Why can't we shout Russia for the Russians if this is how it is?
The event was peaceful, but with a large police presence. Expectations of violence followed the mass demonstration of around 5,000 Russian nationalists last December on Manezhnaya Square in central Moscow. That event left over 30 injured and spread fear that more of the same was to come.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with football fans to appeal for calm after December's riots.
Although there were rumors on Friday that the liberal democratic party Yabloko was the organizer of Saturday's event, the only representatives of an official group were those from the far-right Movement Against Illegal Immigration. The movement's former leader Alexander Belov said that the event was not any way political, but was only focused on commemorating Sviridov. However, he also said that he was afraid of immigrants.
"I am a native Muscovite but I am afraid for myself and for my child," said Belov. "We are not safe because there is a war going on and every person despite his conviction can become a victim of the violence of hungry people who have come here."
Despite the rising tension over the murder, those responsible have still not brought to justice, although five suspects are currently in police custody. One of the five suspects has told police he was acting in self defense.
On Saturday, Russian prosecutors said they had found evidence of "purposeful provocation of violence by natives to the North Caucasus" which resulted in the beating of five Muscovites. Police say they are still looking for at least one other person who they say took part in the December 5 violence.
37 people were killed and 368 injured in racist attacks in 2010, according to the Moscow based SOVA analytical center.