Police in Moscow after the melee (Panorama.am photo)

Clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Moscow Follow Azerbaijani Attacks on Tavush

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MOSCOW/YEREVAN (Combined Sources) — Human Rights Defender of Armenia Arman Tatoyan has drawn the attention of the international organizations to the recent attacks and actions of Azerbaijanis against Armenians abroad on the grounds of ethnic affiliation.

“These days Azerbaijanis are attacking Armenians in different countries on the grounds of ethnic affiliation. The reports (video, posts, etc.) which the Ombudsman’s Office is receiving through alarm calls, as well as through the observation of public materials prove this. The observation shows that the attacks on Armenians are taking place with the motive of hatred (armenophobia) on the grounds of ethnic affiliation and are accompanied by chants containing hatred and degrading dignity”, the Ombudsman said on Facebook on July 24.

He also reported that these attacks are also of provocative nature and are taking place with groups on civilian people.

He drew the attention of the international organizations to these facts and stated that it is necessary to immediately prevent them in order to avoid further escalation and dangerous developments.

He spoke in the aftermath of least 25 arrests in Moscow on Friday, July 24, following overnight violent attacks involving local Armenians and Azerbaijanis which resulted from last week’s deadly fighting on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

The violence erupted late on Thursday, July 23, with various groups of men reportedly attacking other people and businesses on ethnic grounds.

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An amateur video posted on the Internet showed several men smashing a car with Armenian license plates and beating up its driver. Another footage showed other violent youths assaulting an elderly man and demanding that he name the country which they believe should control Nagorno-Karabakh.

A Russian-Armenian activist, David Tonoyan, reported at least five attacks on Armenians which he said mostly occurred in Moscow’s southern suburbs. One Armenian was stabbed and hospitalized as a result, he said, adding that the Russian police beefed up security in those areas.

“According to our information, only Azerbaijanis have been arrested so far,” Tonoyan said.

The Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported that an Azerbaijani man was badly beaten by a group of Armenians in one of those suburbs, Maryino. The Union of Azerbaijanis of Russia alleged an Armenian attack on an Azerbaijani-owned restaurant in the Russian capital.

The Moscow police department reported, meanwhile, that it arrested more than 25 people on suspicion of involvement in what it described as “a number of conflict situations between citizens” in Maryino. It was careful not to mention their nationality or ethnicity.

In a statement, the department said it is continuing to investigate the incidents and warned of tough action against more “manifestations of collective violation of the public order.”

Russia’s human rights ombudsperson, Tatyana Moskalkova, expressed serious concern over the “disturbances between representatives of the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples.” She said ethnically motivated violence is “unacceptable in any civilized society.”

The violent incidents came hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with leaders of Russia’s sizable Armenian and Azerbaijani communities to discuss ways of maintaining what his press office called “interethnic peace and accord” in the country. Ara Abramian, the pro-Kremlin chairman of the Union of Armenians of Russia, said Lavrov’s meeting with him and Azerbaijani-born businessman God Nisanov took place at his initiative.

Nisanov is the main owner of Moscow’s largest wholesale food market which refused to sell apricots imported from Armenia following the July 12 outbreak of the hostilities on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The move sparked an outcry from many Moscow Armenians who queued up to buy those apricots in a show of support for Armenia.

It emerged that another hypermarket located just outside of Moscow has also stopped selling Armenian agricultural products, beverages and prepared foodstuffs. The Tvoy Dom trading center is owned by Aras Agalarov, an Azerbaijani billionaire whose son Emin used to be married to one of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s daughters.

Violent clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijanis have also been reported in several major European capitals. In what may have been a related development, a car belonging to the Armenian Embassy in Germany was set on fire and burned down on July 23.

The Armenian Embassy in Russia issued a statement on the Azerbaijani provocations, which reads:

“In recent days, we have continued to record attempts of the Azerbaijani side to take the tensions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border to Russia and instigate a conflict between the two ethnic groups.

In particular, these are taking place in the trade and economic platforms of Moscow and other Russian cities, which are somehow linked with the Azerbaijani authorities.

We believe that measures should be taken immediately to resolve the situation in order to avoid further developments. Business entities operating in Russia, regardless of nationality or citizenship, must comply with the laws of Russia.

At the same time, given the current situation and attempts to involve the Armenian community in various provocative actions, we urge our compatriots to be vigilant, show restraint, not to succumb to provocations and not to take part in various actions or initiatives organized in response to provocations by the Azerbaijani side.

We continue to work on resolving the issues that have arisen, adhering to the principle of maintaining interethnic peace.

In case of facing any provocations, please immediately report them to the hotlines of the Armenian Embassy, the Union of Armenians in Russia and other structures, as well as contact the law enforcement agencies.”

The Armenian Foreign Ministry said the following day that some of its diplomats working abroad have received threats. It did not elaborate.

In a statement, the ministry accused the Azerbaijani authorities of inciting the violence. It also urged Armenian nationals living abroad and Diaspora Armenians not to “succumb to any provocation.”

The Foreign Ministry of Armenia on July 24 condemned the recent provocation of violence against Armenians abroad.

“Recently, we have witnessed the cases and attempts of violence against Armenian citizens and members of Armenian communities in different countries of the world. There have been cases of obstruction of the normal work of the Armenian diplomatic service abroad and the Armenian communities, as well as a deliberate destruction of their personal and working property, which in some cases have threatened the security of the diplomatic staff as well. Discriminatory steps are being taken to disrupt Armenia’s trade and economic relations with different countries,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The expanding geography of these actions and the facts of the involvement of Azerbaijani officials in the actions against the diplomatic missions of Armenia prove that the mentioned actions are coordinated by the Azerbaijani official structures.

“We strongly condemn the practice of inciting ethnic clashes in different countries, which is another manifestation of Baku’s irresponsibility and is fully in line with the policy and rhetoric of the Azerbaijani leadership provoking hostilities between the two peoples without geographical restrictions.

We call on our compatriots to be vigilant, not to give in to any provocation, and in case of such situations to immediately contact the local law enforcement bodies, Armenian community structures, diplomatic representatives of Armenia,” the statement read.

(Stories from RFE/RL and Panorama.am were used to compile this report.)

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