Staunton, January 26 – Despite an official ban on the meeting and a massive media campaign against it, activists protesting the failure of the Stavropol authorities to find and arrest Chechens believed responsible for the murder of a Russian tried to hold their protest, prompting the MVD to arrest 87 of them and blame the even on outside agitators.
According to MVD officials, police there detained 87 participants in Saturday’s nationalist demonstration in Nevinnomyssk, but pointedly noted that 47 of them were not residents of the city and eight of those arrested were in fact “citizens of foreign states” (www.regnum.ru/news/kavkaz/stavropol/1617738.html).
The Russian police said that they had detained these people on their way to the planned site of the meeting and had confiscated three weapons. As a result, they said, “the situation in Nevinnomyssk is under complete control with the measures for guaranteeing legal order being carried out in correspondence with the law.”
The situation in Stavropol in general and in Nevinnomyssk in particular has been deteriorating since December 6 when a local man, Nikolay Naumenko, was murdered. Suspicion has fallen on two Chechens who, it is widely assumed have fled to their home republic, even though officials say that is far from clear (fedpress.ru/news/society/news_event/1359033970-natsionalisty-reshili-vospolzovatsya-nevinnomysskom).
That murder sparked both demonstrations on December 15 and December 2 at which several hundred protesters took part and 37 people were arrested and fears among the authorities that the situation was threatening to spiral out of control, prompting them to ban future protests, bring in police reinforcements and launch a massive media campaign against such activities.
Those efforts -- see www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/219092/, ru-nsn.livejournal.com/2436783.html, www.stavropolye.tv/state/view/54105 and www.stapravda.ru/20130125/v_nevinnomysske_predprinimayutsya_povyshennye_mery_bezopasnosti_65981.html -- apparently reflected the view of officials that Russian nationalist groups were about to flood the kray and turn Nevinnomyssk into another Kondopoga.
But their actions, in addition to the media campaign, are indicative of the means available to regional leaders outside of Moscow. In Nevinnomyssk, for example, the authorities, introduced more police, blocked people in their apartments, banned the sale of glass bottles, called up young people to draft boards, and arrested people coming into town.
And the current effort by the Stavropol authorities to shift the blame for all these problems on outside agitators represents yet another unintended consequence of Vladimir Putin’s insistence that regional leaders must bear responsibility for inter-ethnic peace in their regions (fedpress.ru/news/society/news_event/1359033970-natsionalisty-reshili-vospolzovatsya-nevinnomysskom).