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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Stavropol Funerals Followed by Protests

ReutersFriends carrying Blokhin's coffin at his funeral Tuesday in Stavropol. He and another student were stabbed to death.
Stavropol Governor Alexander Chernogorov vowed personally to oversee the investigation into the murder of two students whose funerals were held Tuesday, as ultranationalists called for ethnic Russians to take action.

Pavel Blokhin was buried in Stavropol and Viktor Chadin in the nearby town of Blagodarny, as interethnic tensions continued to run high in the southern region.

Although no violence was reported at either of the funerals, hundreds of people heeded the call of leaflets handed out by ultranationalists in Stavropol to attend an unsanctioned "Slav rally" on Tuesday to protest the murders.

About 500 people had gathered at the city's Lenin Square by 7 p.m., and the number of protesters kept growing, Interfax reported Tuesday. The protesters, many of them aggressive, young men, were shouting "Attack" and "Forward, Russians," Interfax and reported.

The rally took place despite Chernogorov's calls for local law enforcement agencies "not only to solve the crime quickly, but also to prevent destructive forces from undermining public order, sowing panic or fanning interethnic discord in the region."

Blokhin and Chadin were stabbed to death Saturday night in an attack police said was recorded on videotape. They released a composite sketch of one of the assailants, who had closely cropped hair and was of Slavic appearance.

The release of the sketch, however, did not quell speculation among local residents that the murders might have been committed as revenge for the May killing of an ethnic Chechen student, Gilani Atayev.

Atayev was killed during a brawl between Chechens and ethnic Russians that spilled out onto the street after an altercation in a Stavropol Internet cafe on May 24. Since then, the city has been awash with speculation that Atayev's relatives may have launched a vendetta to avenge his death, which conjures the image of traditional Chechen blood feuds.

Law enforcement officers and government officials in the region have repeatedly ruled out revenge as a motive.

Chernogorov's words were echoed Tuesday by the presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, Dmitry Kozak.

"I want to warn anyone who might try to capitalize on this, and volunteers from other regions in particular, including Moscow, that they will face prosecution by law enforcement agencies," Kozak said, Interfax reported.