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Veterans, paratroopers to patrol Russian city after ethnic tensions

  |   July 16, 2013 at 12:01 AM
PUGACHYOV, Russia, July 16 (UPI) -- Teams of military veterans say they will help patrol a Russian city rocked by unrest following the slaying of a former paratrooper by a Chechen teenager.

Russian paratroopers and military veterans living in the Volga River region city of Pugachyov agreed Saturday to form voluntary militias to help keep order in the city of 41,000 after five days of mass demonstrations and riots last week, ITAR-Tass reported.

Pugachyov district administration chief Stanislav Sidorov met with representatives of the regional branch of the Russian veterans group Combat Brotherhood and 25 active paratroopers, partly to discuss preparations for the Aug. 2 Paratrooper Day national holiday.

But they also worked out a plan to help maintain order in the wake of the unrest, in which angry residents demanded the immediate expulsion of ethnic Chechens.

The demonstrations were sparked by the July 6 slaying of 20-year-old former paratrooper Ruslan Marzhanova at a bar in Pugachyov, located about 150 miles northeast of the regional capital of Saratov.

Police said a 16-year-old Chechen immigrant youth admitted to the slaying, in which Marzhanova was attacked with a scalpel and stabbed numerous times. He later died in a hospital.

Demonstrations began the next day, with hundreds of residents gathering to block the main highway between Saratov and Samara while engaging in fights with Chechen immigrants. They demanded the resignations of local officials and strict curbs on immigration into Russian cities.

The protests continued for five days but by Saturday the situation had calmed, the Russian news agency reported, with silence dominating the city center, interrupted only by wedding celebrations.

The only remaining evidence of the unrest were city traffic police checking cars entering the city, looking for weapons, the news agency said.

Interfax-Volga reported some of the protesters carried Russian flags while others held photos of a local resident whose earlier slaying had been blamed on ethnic Chechens while denouncing the government for not cracking down on illegal immigration.

In a meeting with the demonstrators last week, Denis Fadeev, vice governor of the Saratov province, said the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation was conducting interrogations with 15 witnesses to the paratrooper's slaying. Fadeev called for calm and restraint, and warned against vigilante actions against Chechen immigrants.

"No lynching will be tolerated in the area," he said. "Every attempt at this will be strictly suppressed under the law. We want to clean up the area together with the residents. Believe me, we want nothing less, so that all those who come here live by the rules and act within the law and cultural traditions."

A representative of the Russian Federal Migration Service said a sweep of unregistered immigrants had turned up some violators of passport and visa regulations.

Interfax reported Pugachyov residents drew up a list of demands to resolve the conflict associated with the paratrooper's slaying, in particular to adopt a federal or regional law that would regulate the migratory flows within Russia.

They also demanded that local mayors and regional legislatures be given the power to block the registration of immigrants.

Yevgeny Minchenko, general director of the International Institute of Political Expertise, told Interfax corruption in Chechnya is helping spark flows of illegal immigrants within Russia.

"The level of corruption of authorities in some regions is very high," he said. "As a result, young people don't have much clan support, and, consequently, poor career prospects, so they rush to the other regions to work -- unfortunately, not always legally."

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