MOSCOW, January 10 (RIA Novosti) – Local police have asked a Moscow court to free an Uzbek migrant accused of attacking a 12-year-old boy, the press service for the Interior Ministry's Moscow branch told RIA Novosti Thursday.
The request represents the latest turn in a peculiar case that has challenged the common notions of Russian disdain toward migrant workers from poor former Soviet republics.
Thirty-five-year-old street sweeper Bakhrom Khurramov was arrested in southwestern Moscow earlier this week on suspicion of attacking Artyom Khoteyev on January 6 with a broken shovel handle and leaving the boy with a concussion and broken jaw after Khoteev and several friends allegedly threw a snowball at Khurramov.
After Khurramov’s arrest, however, residents of the neighborhood in which he works penned a joint letter in support of the street sweeper, claiming the children provoked the conflict. In the letter, carried by various Russian media, residents also praised Khurramov's character and work ethic.
“We are simply convinced that [Khurramov] was provoked,” a neighbor told the Vesti TV network Thursday.
Police also said Thursday they are investigating a video uncovered online that appears to show Khoteyev physically attacking another boy. Khoteyev’s classmate told Vesti the 12-year-old reguarly exhibits crude and aggressive behavior.
Police have asked that Khurramov be released on condition that he does not flee while police continue the investigation.
Millions of migrant workers from the former Soviet Union and elsewhere flood into Russia each year to earn a living. The increasing number of migrants, many of them dark-skinned Muslims, has fueled fears among working-class Russians of being squeezed out of the job market and has resulted in popular xenophobia.
Updated to correct name spellings and reference to Moscow police.