MOSCOW - Russian authorities are increasingly worried that soccer fans are feeding a rise in neo-Nazi activities. The latest sign was a large, non-sanctioned ultra-nationalist rally in central Moscow to protest the death of an 18-year-old soccer fan, Andrei Uropina, who was killed in a fight outside a Moscow nightclub last week. An Azerbaijani, Khosruvlo Nail, is wanted on suspicion in Uropina's death.
The ire of ultra-nationalists is most frequently directed towards individuals from the Caucasus region, particularly Chechens, but also Azerbaijanis and Armenians, who have become the most popular ethnic scapegoat for problems in Russian society.
Investigators deny there was any racial motive to the murder, arguing that the alleged killer was actually standing up for his friend, a Russian, after an altercation broke out in the line for a disco. They said Nail had been put on a federal and international wanted list and that he was facing charges of murder and attempted homicide.
There have been many calls for another Manezh Square, which has become the traditional place for ultra-right actions. But until the latest rally, those calls had attracted no more than a couple teenagers. Last December, more than 6,000 football fans and nationalists rioted there, demanding an investigation into the killing of a Spartak Moscow soccer fan who was shot in a dispute with several people from the Caucasus.
Maria Rozalskya, an expert on the ultra-right, said that a repeat of the events of last December was possible. But for that to happen, there needs to be enough of a reason. The nationalists still need enough of a reason to gather en masse in the way they did last year.