Echoes of Kondopoga in Petrozavodsk

Ultranationalists from Moscow and St. Petersburg are streaming into Petrozavodsk, the capital of Karelia, to try to spark ethnic riots, the city's mayor said Wednesday.

Mayor Viktor Maslyakov said ultranationalists sought to turn Petrozavodsk into a "show" for the whole country.

The mayor's comments came as authorities in the nearby industrial town of Kondopoga were still restoring order in the aftermath of ethnic riots there. The riots were ignited by a fight at an Azeri-run restaurant that left two Slavs dead. A rally of 2,000 Slavs in Kondopoga on Friday is thought to have exacerbated problems.

Last weekend's violence, in which Slavs attacked and looted Kondopoga businesses, prompted most, if not all, of the several hundred natives of the Caucasus living in the area to flee. Karelia's governor, Sergei Katanandov, said many who fled would have to relocate permanently; young people from the Caucasus who return, he said, will have to be careful about how they conduct themselves or leave, Izvestia reported.

Chechen authorities, the Public Chamber and the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi have sent representatives to the republic.

On Tuesday, demonstrators at an unsanctioned rally in Petrozavodsk demanded that natives of the Caucasus be deported from the Republic of Karelia. Between 150 and 400 people are thought to have participated.

And on Wednesday, the first day of the fall session of the State Duma, Speaker Boris Gryzlov said a parliamentary investigation of the Kondopoga events was under consideration. In the Federation Council, Speaker Sergei Mironov said a delegation of senators might soon visit Kondopoga, Interfax reported.

Mironov said Kondopoga-like disturbances have broken out on a smaller scale across the country but these events usually received no pubic attention.

Maslyakov's fear of violence in Petrozavodsk may stem, in part, from Friday's rally in Kondopoga. That rally, said Alexander Chechelnitsky, head of the Kondopoga police force, was organized with the help of at least three outsiders.

Alexander Belov, head of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration came from Moscow to Kondopoga to address the rally.