MOSCOW - Fearing more clashes between racist hooligans and ethnic minorities, Russian police detained 1,000 people in a standoff near a Moscow train station Wednesday, taking a strong stance against far-right extremists after weekend rioting left dozens injured.
Hundreds of riot police outside the Kievsky station hauled mostly young men and teenagers shouting racist slogans into police vans. Some were lined up against buses and searched by police. Officers confiscated an arsenal of weapons, including knives and metal bars, police spokesman Viktor Biryukov said.
Resentment has been rising among Slavic Russians over the growing presence in Moscow and elsewhere of people from the southern Caucasus region, the home of numerous ethnic groups, most of them Muslim. People from other parts of the former Soviet Union, including Central Asia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, also face ethnic discrimination and are frequent victims of hate crimes.
The train station is popular with street merchants from the Caucasus. The majority of those detained were Slavic Russians shouting racist slogans and calling for violence, although some ethnic minorities from the Caucasus were also taken into custody.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said there were no injuries reported. "Police will severely punish any provocations and violence," he said in televised remarks.
Authorities sought to prevent rioting that occurred outside the Kremlin on Saturday, when mainly soccer fans chanted "Russia for Russians!" during clashes that left dozens injured. Many soccer fans are linked with neo-Nazis and other radical racist groups that mushroomed in Russia after the 1991 Soviet collapse.
The violence over the weekend had raised new doubts about the government's ability to control the rising tide of xenophobia, which poses a serious threat to Russia's existence as a multiethnic state. It also embarrassed the Kremlin just days after FIFA awarded soccer's 2018 World Cup to Russia and raised questions about Russia's ability to safely hold international sporting events, including the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
The weekend rally began as a protest against the killing of a member of the Spartak Moscow soccer team's fan club, who was shot with rubber bullets during clashes with Caucasus natives at a bus stop this month. Spartak fans said that corrupt policemen detained one suspect in the slaying after the fight but released others because they had powerful backers in the Caucasus.