MOSCOW, September 30 (RIA Novosti) – Four people have been detained over a grassroots attempt to hunt for illegal migrants in Moscow and flush them out of a dormitory in a raid that ended in a shootout, city police said Monday.
The suspects face hooliganism charges, punishable with up to seven years in prison, police said in an online statement. A 45-year-old Ukrainian woman was separately charged with organizing illegal migration, which carries up to five years behind bars, the report added.
Between 30 and 60 people, according to various media estimates, descended on a dormitory in the Kapotnya district of southeastern Moscow on Friday night, accusing inhabitants of selling illegal drugs and violating migrant legislation and ordering them to come out for a document check.
The attackers wielded baseball bats, mace sprays and stun guns and bombarded the building with smoke grenades to force the residents out, the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily reported Sunday.
A video of the raid, available on YouTube, showed a crowd of young men, many in surgical masks, kicking down doors and ordering the people inside to get out.
The residents resisted, locking themselves in their rooms; one eventually opened fire from an air gun, injuring a woman visiting her sister in the dorm, NTV television reported Saturday. A resident of the southern Russian republic of Dagestan was detained over the shootout, police said.
A co-organizer of the raid, Alexei Khudyakov of the Moscow Shield group, which tracks illegal migrants, pledged after the incident to apologize to the dorm’s residents, Rusnovosti.ru said Saturday.
Twenty residents were in fact detained as illegal migrants and face deportation, the Federal Migration Service said, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported. Another 19 residents were also detained but later released after being cleared as legal migrants following a brief stint at the police precinct, the report said.
Grassroots anti-migrant raids are gaining popularity with Russian nationalists, though activists usually coordinate their actions with the Federal Migration Service and act as volunteer helpers.
The trend got a major boost from a July incident at a Moscow marketplace where a policeman was injured trying to detain an alleged rapist. The clash was blamed on residents of Russia’s North Caucasus, whom many Russians outside their home turf see as migrants, and triggered a spate of raids like in Kapotnya, most notably in the city of St. Petersburg, where organizers were eventually detained amid accusations that they, wielding baseball bats, attacked fruit stands run by migrants.
Russia, which has a population of 141 million, hosts about 3 million illegal migrants, according to governmental statistics, though critics say the official figure is significantly understated.