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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 October 2006, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Fear lingers after Russian riot
By James Rodgers
BBC News, Kondopoga, Russia

The restaurant in Kondopoga where the riot started
The riot started after two people were killed in a restaurant brawl
Kondopoga went from obscurity to notoriety overnight. Until late August this year, there had been nothing to distinguish it from countless other small Russian towns.

Then came the fight at the Chaika restaurant. Two men were stabbed to death.

People here say it was a drunken brawl over a bill. The Russian media called what followed a "pogrom".

An angry mob took to the streets. They blamed migrants from the Caucasus for the deaths of the two men in the restaurant.

They attacked businesses belonging to anyone without a white skin. Many people fled the town, fearing for their lives.

Almost 50 of them ended up at a house in Petrozavodsk, some 60km away. From the outside, it looks like any of the surrounding homes. It is tucked away down a dirt road away from the town centre.

It is the local mosque. Two months after the riot, most of the people who came here have left. Some went back to a calmer Kondopoga. Others returned to the south.

Refugee once more

Musa Bakanayev, 56, and his extended family are still there.

Autumn in northern Russia is grey and wet. Inside the house, it feels cold and damp.

Musa Bakanayev
Musa Bakanayev sought safety from the conflict in Chechnya

Musa came to Karelia, as this region is called, in 1995. He fled the conflict in his native Chechnya to start a new life.

His brother, sister and niece had all been killed. He hoped that Kondopoga would be the place to start a new, safer, life.

Now he is a refugee once more. He is not sure if he dares to return to the town he left two months ago - after a warning that all Chechens were potential targets.

"It depends on the situation, if we can we'd like to stay there, but we'll have to see," he told me.

I asked him if he was afraid.

"We're worried for the children," he replied.

Some migrant traders have returned to the market in Kondopoga. They shiver behind stalls selling cheap shoes and clothing.

They are reluctant to say much - presumably not wanting to risk stirring up the poisonous hatred which so recently threatened them.

Migrants blamed

Russia's extreme right has followed the events in the town in detail.

A group called The Movement against Illegal Immigration gleefully reported the riots on its website. They hailed the disturbances here as "an awakening of the Russian people".

Sergei Ivanov, a 37-year-old security guard at Kondopoga's main hospital, speaks for a group called Our Home is Kondopoga. He argues that migrants are entirely to blame for the violence.

"This tragedy happened because the people who come here from the south don't want to lead the kind of life that we have here," he says bluntly.

The restaurant where the two men were murdered remains a burnt-out ruin. A number of suspects have been detained by police.

Both the migrants and Kondopoga's white Slavic residents look to the authorities to control the situation. They say that not enough is being done to ensure law and order and guarantee the safety of citizens.

For now, the town remains peaceful - but there is no sense that everyone is happy, or that their fears and suspicions will disappear.

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