Ethnic Clash in Closed City

ZnamenskA deadly clash between ethnic Chechens and ethnic Russians in Znamensk, a closed city near a missile test site in Astrakhan oblast, on 19 July 2009 has sparked fears among many Russians of a new wave of Kondopoga-type violence across that country and raised questions about security in some of Moscow’s most sensitive military facilities.

These concerns have been intensified because Russian officials first tried to suppress media coverage, thus leaving the field to bloggers — some of whom like those connected to the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) have their own agendas — and then downplaying the events in ways that have led more people to ask what in fact took place.

According to, there was “a mass fight between Chechens and Russians” with shooting and victims involving at least 150 people “on the territory of the closed territorial formation of Znamensk in Astrakhan oblast” adjoining the village of Kapustin Yar which is “the main rocket test site of Russia.”

Moreover, continues, as a result of the conflict, several people were hospitalized and one 28-year-old Russian, Vitaly Milkov, died of wounds he had received. Immediately, after the fight, the agency says, officials introduced a curfew and flooded Znamensk with additional militia detachments.

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