Man jailed for murder that touched off Moscow riot

October 28, 2011 - 6:35 AM

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian court sentenced a man to 20 years in prison on Friday for the brutal murder of a Slavic soccer fan that sparked a large ethnic riot in Moscow amid growing xenophobia and racial tensions in Russia.

A jury at Moscow City Court had convicted Aslan Cherkesov of premeditated murder last week, and the court's Judge Andrey Rasnovsky sentenced him Friday. Five other people who took part in the brawl were sentenced to five years in jail each for hooliganism and inflicting light bodily injury.

All six defendants are natives of Russia's predominantly Muslim Caucasus region.

The soccer fan, Yegor Sviridov, was shot to death in a drunken brawl at a bus stop on Dec. 6 by Cherkesov.

Police had initially arrested only Cherkesov and released the other five suspects. Soccer fans claimed the men were freed because they had powerful backers in the corruption-plagued Caucasus, and organized the riot several days later.

About 5,000 soccer fans and nationalists rallied for hours, chanting "Russia for Russians" and a slur against dark-complexioned Muslims from the Caucasus. When police moved in, rioting broke out that injured more than 30 people. A Moscow police chief said later that investigators had made a mistake.

Resentment is rising among ethnic Russians over the growing presence in Moscow and elsewhere of people from the Caucasus, the home of many ethnic groups. People from other parts of the former Soviet Union, including Central Asia and Azerbaijan, also face strong ethnic discrimination in Russia.

Some sports fans are linked with neo-Nazi and other ultranationalist groups, which have mushroomed in Russia since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.