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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Stavropol on Alert for Ethnic Clashes

Stavropol police were on alert to prevent interethnic violence Monday after two ethnic Russian students were killed over the weekend.

Law enforcement sources said they had stepped up efforts to prevent troublemakers from entering the city after the two, Viktor Chadin and Pavel Blakhin, were stabbed to death Saturday night.

The students' ages were unclear. Police gave Chadin's year of birth as 1988, while Blakhin was born in 1986.

The murders came less than two weeks after an ethnic Chechen student, Gilani Atayev, 18, was killed during a street brawl on May 24.

Local government and law enforcement officials were trying to dampen tempers as ultranationalist groups called on sympathizers to converge on the southern city. The officials dismissed the suggestion that the stabbings were committed to avenge the murder of the Chechen teenager.

"This is all just talk," said Stavropol region first deputy prosecutor Sergei Dubrovin, Interfax reported. "There is absolutely no connection."

Witnesses told Interfax that a brawl involving 200 to 300 people spilled out onto the streets on May 24 after an altercation broke out in an Internet cafe.

A Stavropol police spokesman contacted Monday said the fight was between ethnic Russian and ethnic Chechen young people. The spokesman refused to identify himself.

Racial tensions between ethnic Russians and people from the Caucasus have been growing in regional towns. Race riots broke out in the Karelian city of Kondopoga last year, leaving two ethnic Russians dead and forcing ethnic-Chechen families to flee the town as their businesses were torched.

Dubrovin said the police were searching for two suspects in the murder of the two students killed over the weekend. On Monday, he told a news conference that the crime had been caught on videotape, Interfax reported.

"A fight between four young men was caught on film," he said, "Afterward, two ran off toward Ulitsa Pushkina."

Dubrovin said one student had been stabbed in the chest and the other in the back.

Ultranationalists on Monday gathered for a small rally in Stavropol to celebrate the birthday of General Alexei Yermolov, a tsarist officer who helped pacify the Caucasus in the 19th century.

Igor Artyomov, leader of the ultranationalist Russian National Union, traveled to Stavropol to speak at the meeting, the group's web site said. He called for a rally in the city Tuesday to protest the "black wave of violence." Chyorny, or black, is a common racial epithet applied to people from the Caucasus.

The students are to be buried Tuesday.

All restaurants were closed Sunday at 9 p.m. following the students' deaths, and extra police patrols were on duty, Interfax said.

The Stavropol city administration was recommending that bars and nightclubs close by midnight and that hotels check the documents of guests more carefully, Interfax reported.