MOSCOW (AP) — Azerbaijanis and Armenians have engaged in a series of fights and violent rampages in Moscow, venting their anger over recent cross-border clashes between the two ex-Soviet nations.
Moscow police said Saturday they have detained over 30 people on charges of involvement in fights and disturbances. In St. Petersburg, police detained dozens Saturday in a bid to prevent another big fight between Azerbaijanis and Armenians.
The clashes between members of Armenian and Azerbaijani communities in the Russian capital follow an outbreak of hostilities on the border between the two South Caucasus neighbors earlier this month. Several days of cross-border shelling left about 20 people dead.
Russian news reports said the spate of violent incidents began when groups of Azerbaijanis beat up Armenians in Moscow early Friday and later assailed Armenian-owned stores.
In a series of clashes across Moscow that followed, Armenians and Azerbaijanis engaged in fights and attacked each other’s shops and restaurants.
Calls for restraint from Armenian and Azerbaijani diplomats and other officials didn’t seem to have any effect and the brawls have continued.
Armenians’ Union in Russia said that officials from Russia’s Federal Security Service, the top KGB successor agency, held a meeting Friday with representatives of the Armenian community to discuss the violent clashes and promised that the instigators of violence would be punished.
The two Caucasus neighbors have been locked for decades in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan that has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. International efforts to settle the conflict have stalled, and clashes have been frequent.
Russia has maintained close ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan and has been part of the so-called Minsk group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe alongside the U.S. and France, which has tried to mediate a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.