Putin vows to crackdown on extremists amid ethnic tension

Russian PM vowed to crackdown on extremists, amid heightened ethnic tensions in the wake of last weeks rioting in the capital.

Last Updated: Dec 16, 2010, 20:52 PM IST

Moscow: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin on Thursday vowed to crackdown on extremists, amid heightened
ethnic tensions in the wake of last weeks rioting in the
capital.

"We cannot tar everyone with the same brush. It is
necessary to crack down on any extremist acts," Putin said in
his annual live TV question-answer session.

The Russian capital saw its biggest racial rioting
when a 5,000-strong crowd of ultra-nationalists and football
hooligans clashed with police at Manezh Square near the
Kremlin wall over the death of a `Spartak` football fan in a
brawl with a group of Caucasians.

Later the ultra-nationalists injured at least 30
people belonging to other ethnic groups.

Advocating the use of brutal police force for the
crackdown on extremists and radicals, Putin cautioned his
critics, the `liberal intellectuals`, to stop tarnishing the
image of the law enforcement agencies otherwise "they will
have to shave their beards and wear helmets to themselves
fight the radicals."

The Russian strongman pointed that Russia like every
society is infected with bacillus of radicalism and
xenophobia, which like virus attacks the human body in case of
low immunity.

"Russia always has been a polyethinc, multi-religious
nation. Even as some say Russian Orthodox Church, an eastern
branch of Christianity, is closer to Islam and there has been
mutual penetration of traditions and values," Putin
underscored.

Responding to a question from a Russian living in the
Caucasus regions of the country, he called for the respect of
the local traditions by the Slavic Russians living in the
predominantly Muslim Caucasus and expected similar respect by
the Caucasians coming to proper Russian cities.

"A person from the Caucasus should not be afraid to go
out in the streets of Moscow, and our ethnic Slavic citizens
should be afraid to live in North Caucasus republics," he
added.

Meanwhile, the police last night detained at least
1,700 extremist youth, mostly Caucasians in Moscow, St.
Petersburg and other cities to avert fresh rioting, said
Mikhail Sukhodolsky, the First Deputy Interior Minister.

Over 1,300 people were arrested in Moscow alone and
hundreds of weapons were seized.

Sukhodolsky said police acted effectively and
decisively to prevent an escalation of violence.

According to RIA Novosti, race-hate riots and clashes
between local groups and migrants from Russia`s mainly Muslim
North Caucasus region were warded off in Moscow, St.
Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don,
Novosibirsk, Vladimir, Belgorod, Samara region and Udmurtia.

PTI