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Three killed in mass melee at Moscow cemetery

Officials have said the mass brawl appeared to be caused by an ethnic dispute over who controls burial services. Migrants often face discrimination and poor working conditions in Russia.

Three people have been killed and at least two dozen injured after an ethnically fueled brawl involving hundreds of men broke out over who should control burial services at a Moscow cemetery, officials said.

An Interior Ministry spokesperson said at least 90 people had been arrested, Interfax news agency reported.

Video footage showed men wielding shovels, metal bars and sticks running through the sprawling Khovanskoye cemetery as guns went off in the background. At least 200 people were involved.

Reports said the fighting broke out between men from the North Caucasus region and immigrants from former Soviet Central Asia.

The fight appeared to have been sparked by a dispute over control of burial services, the Interior Ministry said.

The RIA state news agency quoted a cemetery official saying the group from Chechnya and Dagestan had tried to take away jobs from the men from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Two of the dead were from Tajikistan, said Karomat Sharipov, a representative of the Tajik diaspora.

"Organized crime gang members came; they demanded that they give them 20 percent of their income," Sharipov told Interfax news.

The fighting apparently erupted when the Tajik workers refused, Sharipov said.

"These were Tajik citizens who have worked in Russia for over 20 years," said Sharipov.

Poor migrant workers from Central Asia often take up menial jobs in Russia and send remittances back home.

A depressed economy brought on by Western sanctions over Ukraine and low oil prices has added to already dire conditions for migrants and increased social tensions in Russia.

cw/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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