Shaun Walker: An awkward reminder of violent tensions in the Caucasus

The migrant labourers come to Russia to work on construction sites and in menial jobs, and are often blamed for crimes

Tuesday 14 June 2011 00:00 BST

Russia's fragile ethnic balance has been threatened a number of times in recent months, and the killing of Yuri Budanov will be another worry for those who fear that the "national question" is the biggest threat to the country's security.

Last December, gangs of Russians went on the rampage in Moscow to avenge the death of a football fan killed by migrants from the North Caucasus, with anyone of "non-Slavic appearance" a target. If it is proved that Budanov's murder was carried out by revenge-minded Chechens, then a further wave of revenge attacks could follow, creating a dangerous cycle.

Aside from the legacy of the Chechen wars and the continuing Islamic insurgency in Chechnya and the rest of the Russian North Caucasus, the influx of economic migrants from the former Soviet states of Central Asia also contributes to tension. The migrant labourers come to Russia to work on construction sites and in menial jobs, and are often blamed for crimes. Last week the head of one Russian region promised to build a special camp to hold immigrants. Migrants to the far-eastern region of Kamchatka will be forced to move to the camp, which will be guarded by police, according to Vladimir Ilyukhin, the region's governor.

The workers will live in special wagons designed for temporary housing, and will be brought to work each day on buses. "There will be police posted there who will ensure that order is maintained on the territory of the settlement," said the governor.

Such rhetoric is not unusual. In April this year, the Federal Migration Service sacked its chief spokesman Konstantin Poltoranin for saying that "the survival of the white race is at stake" in Russia during a television interview. "We want to make sure the mixing of blood happens in the right way here," Mr Poltoranin said, explaining Russia's tough policies on asylum-seekers.

At Budanov's funeral yesterday, there were calls to avenge his death. "The whole Chechen race needs to be exterminated, the whole of the Caucasus," said one young mourner, covered with tattoos, who gave his name as Sasha. "The Chechens are not a civilised race, but the Jews who run our country don't know how to deal with them. They've killed a Russian patriot and there must be revenge now."

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