By Emil Danielyan
The Russian police have reportedly tightened up security in a small town near Moscow where ethnic tensions continue to run high one week after racist attacks on its Armenian residents.
The official Itar-Tass news agency reported on Monday that special police units are patrolling the streets of Krasnoarmeisk to avert a fresh outbreak of anti-Armenian violence there.
More than a dozen local Armenians were hospitalized on July 9 after angry Russian mobs rampaged with impunity for several hours, beating victims on the streets and inside their homes. The unprecedented pogrom was provoked by the stabbing the previous night of a 26-year-old Russian man reportedly committed by an Armenian national.
Two of the suspected attackers were subsequently detained by law-enforcement agencies. Several hundred people demonstrated in Krasnoarmeisk on Friday to demand their release from jail. They also urged authorities to expel Armenians and other immigrants unable to produce proper residence documents.
Units of OMON, the well-armed Russian special police, were deployed in the town apparently after the rally. The move also followed strong criticism of Russian law-enforcement agencies voiced by leaders of Russia’s large Armenian community. The Union of Armenians of Russia, the biggest community group, has blamed police for its failure and alleged reluctance to prevent the anti-Armenian attacks in Krasnoarmeisk and other parts of the vast country.
"Evidence of a crisis in Russia's law-enforcement system is abundant,” the union said in a statement on Friday. “Social, economic or other problems cannot justify ethnic animosity in a multi-national country,” the statement added.
The Krasnoarmeisk authorities have denied that the violence was ethnically motivated, describing it as a mere “hooliganism.” However, the governor of the Moscow region, Boris Gromov, appears to admit the ethnic character of the riots. According to Itar-Tass, Gromov has expressed concern at the growing manifestations of xenophobia in the region.
A wave of racist attacks across the country led the Russian parliament recently to pass legislation aimed at combating the extremism.
Meanwhile, reports from Moscow said on Monday that police in the Russian capital has begun a hunt for an unnamed resident of Yerevan who allegedly stabbed one of their officers. The Georgian Caucasus Press news agency, citing the Moscow police department, said the policeman was wounded in the belly on Sunday as he tried to question the Armenian man suspected of beating a woman.
The reports could heighten anti-Armenian sentiment in Russia.