President Dmitry Medvedev praised Moscow police for a violent crackdown on shocking downtown rioting near the Kremlin's walls Saturday, even as police sought information on who had led the mob of some 5,500 football fans in shouting racist phrases and attacking North Caucasus natives.
The unsanctioned rally demanding an investigation into the killing of a football fan on Dec. 5 erupted into violence after demonstrators spotted a group of dark-skinned teenagers and tried to beat them, news reports said.
Thirty-two people were wounded, including two seriously, Interfax reported. At least three of those hospitalized were Caucasus natives, all with stab wounds. Eight police officers were also injured.
Police briefly detained 66 people.
The mood in Moscow was tense Sunday as rumors circulated in online football forums that Caucasus natives were planning counterstrike attacks, but police called the rumors a provocation by ultranationalists.
During Saturday's rally, chants of "Russia for Russians" and "[expletive] the Caucasus" reverberated across Manezh Square, proving a major embarrassment for the Kremlin, which prides itself on allowing no unsanctioned public events and is accused by the liberal opposition of secretly sympathizing with nationalists.
The protesters came to the square to protest the death of Yegor Sviridov, 28, a member of a radical Spartak Moscow fan group who was shot dead during an interracial brawl with North Caucasus natives.
A suspect in the murder, Aslan Cherkesov, a native of Kabardino-Balkaria, was detained last week, but his companions were released after questioning, prompting speculation that they had paid off the police.