Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin mourned a soccer fan whose death sparked nationalist riots near Red Square, warning of possible restrictions on migrants.
Putin led a minute’s silence for Yegor Sviridov, a 28-year-old shot dead in a clash with migrants from Russia’s southern Muslim provinces on Dec. 6, at a meeting today with soccer fan club representatives, the Rossiya 24 state channel reported.
“A young man died,” Putin said. “This is a big tragedy.” If outside ethnic groups aren’t able to respect local customs and laws, migration rules will need to be revised in big cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg, Putin said in televised comments. The prime minister also visited Sviridov’s grave and laid flowers at it, Rossiya 24 said.
Hundreds of riot police were deployed in the center of the Russian capital on Dec. 15 to halt rival ethnic rallies, including by demonstrators from Central Asia and the Caucasus region. Russia has witnessed a surge in attacks on dark-skinned migrants in recent years, with far-right Russians also holding rallies on national holidays.
On Dec. 11, thousands of fans of Moscow’s Spartak soccer club gathered near Red Square to protest the shooting death of Sviridov. Young men chanting racist slogans attacked police and passers-by at the rally. Dozens of people were hospitalized.
Putin warned that xenophobia was on the rise and urged the soccer fan club representatives not to allow their associations to become infiltrated by extremists.
Former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, now an opposition politician, accuses the government of tacitly encouraging extremist nationalist forces.
“The fact is that the authorities in previous years virtually encouraged such developments and didn’t do anything to minimize them, and now it all pours out in the street,” Kasyanov said in an interview with Bloomberg News on Dec. 13.
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