Police in Moscow made at least 25 arrests on Friday following overnight violent attacks involving local Armenians and Azerbaijanis which resulted from last week’s deadly fighting on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
The violence erupted late on Thursday, with various groups of men reportedly attacking other people and businesses on ethnic grounds.
An amateur video posted on the Internet showed several men smashing a car with Armenian license plates and beating up its driver. Another footage showed other violent youths assaulting an elderly man and demanding that he name the country which they believe should control Nagorno-Karabakh.
A Russian-Armenian activist, David Tonoyan, reported at least five attacks on Armenians which he said mostly occurred in Moscow’s southern suburbs. One Armenian was stabbed and hospitalized as a result, he said, adding that the Russian police beefed up security in those areas.
“According to our information, only Azerbaijanis have been arrested so far,” Tonoyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The “Moskovsky Komsomolets” daily reported that an Azerbaijani man was badly beaten by a group of Armenians in one of those suburbs, Maryino. The Union of Azerbaijanis of Russia alleged an Armenian attack on an Azerbaijani-owned restaurant in the Russian capital.
The Moscow police department reported, meanwhile, that it arrested more than 25 people on suspicion of involvement in what it described as “a number of conflict situations between citizens” in Maryino. It was careful not to mention their nationality or ethnicity.
In a statement, the department said it is continuing to investigate the incidents and warned of tough action against more “manifestations of collective violation of the public order.”
Russia’s human rights ombudsperson, Tatyana Moskalkova, expressed serious concern over the “disturbances between representatives of the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples.” She said ethnically motivated violence is “unacceptable in any civilized society.”
The violent incidents came hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with leaders of Russia’s sizable Armenian and Azerbaijani communities to discuss ways of maintaining what his press office called “interethnic peace and accord” in the country. Ara Abramian, the pro-Kremlin chairman of the Union of Armenians of Russia, said Lavrov’s meeting with him and Azerbaijani-born businessman God Nisanov took place at his initiative.
Nisanov is the main owner of Moscow’s largest wholesale food market which refused to sell apricots imported from Armenia following the July 12 outbreak of the hostilities on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The move sparked an outcry from many Moscow Armenians who queued up to buy those apricots in a show of support for Armenia.
It emerged on Thursday that another hypermarket located just outside of Moscow has also stopped selling Armenian agricultural products, beverages and prepared foodstuffs. The Tvoy Dom trading center is owned by Aras Agalarov, an Azerbaijani billionaire whose son Emin used to be married to one of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s daughters.
Violent clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijanis have also been reported in several major European capitals and Los Angeles. In what may have been a related development, a car belonging to the Armenian Embassy in Germany was set on fire and burned down on Thursday.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said on Friday that some of its diplomats working abroad have received threats. It did not elaborate.
In a statement, the ministry accused the Azerbaijani authorities of inciting the violence. It also urged Armenian nationals living abroad and Diaspora Armenians not to “succumb to any provocation.”