Russia Responds to Anti-Migrant Riots by Arresting Migrants

There was no easy way for the mayor of Moscow to respond to this weekend’s race riots. On Sunday night, a violent mob clashed with police in the south of the city, hurling bottles, destroying property and screaming for a purge of minorities from Central Asia and the Caucasus. Their leaders claimed it was revenge for the unsolved murder last week of a Russian man at the hands of a dark-skinned migrant worker. But while Mayor Sergei Sobyanin was quick to condemn the tactics of the mob, he found it hard to distance himself from its logic. Just this summer, during the city’s mayoral race, Sobyanin was the one who brought xenophobia into the political mainstream. Now he was forced to reap what he’d sown. So his reaction to the violence, bizarre as it seems, was understandable on Monday morning, when he briefed President Vladimir Putin on the incident. Instead of pledging to rebuild or at least protect the vegetable warehouse that the racist mob had ransacked, Sobyanin ordered it to close down for using migrant labor. And, instead of trying to calm the immigrants who were the targets of the violence, he ordered raids on street markets to arrest more than a thousand migrants at random. “We are carrying out a series of inspections not only at the [damaged] warehouse but other markets in Moscow in order to establish order,” the mayor told Putin. Almost as an afterthought, he mentioned that police had arrested the organizers of the riot and charged them with “hooliganism.” (MORE: Moscow Rioters Lash Out Against a ‘Migrant’ Murderer) His focus on the threat of illegal migrant workers — rather than the threat of skinheads and nationalists — was in line with the rhetoric he trotted out this summer. During an interview in May with a Moscow daily, Sobyanin, who previously served as Putin’s chief of staff, made no bones about his attitude toward foreigners. “People who don’t speak Russian well, who have a totally different culture, they are better off living in their own … Continue reading Russia Responds to Anti-Migrant Riots by Arresting Migrants