Russian nationalists want wedding shooters jailed

MOSCOW (AP) — It was an unusual wedding escort even for Moscow’s brash style: A red Ferrari led a motorcade in which guests fired celebratory shots from car windows as they sped down one of the city’s main avenues near Red Square.

Sunday’s parade drew an angry reaction from the Kremlin-controlled parliament, where senior lawmakers voiced outrage Monday after wedding guests from the province of Dagestan in Russia’s North Caucasus walked away with $3 fines. Just one man was ordered to pay a $60 fine by police who stopped the motorcade just outside the Kremlin.

Video of the incident also prompted angry comments from ethnic Russians, who denounced the wedding traditions brought into the Russian capital from the volatile Caucasus. Some called for tougher punishment for such behavior.

In an apparent response to the public outcry, a Moscow judge handed out a 15-day jail sentence to one of the shooters, the Interfax news agency reported.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of Liberal Democratic Party, said Monday while it’s “a sign of joy” for people from the Caucasus to shoot off guns in celebration, “here it’s a sign of robbery, banditry.” He suggested such incidents be punishable by up to two years in jail.

Sergei Zheleznyak of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party suggested that celebratory gunfire should land a 15-day jail sentence and substantial fines.

“Meager fines for hooliganism with the use of firearms are a mockery of law and common sense,” he said.

Millions of mostly Muslim natives of Dagestan and other Caucasus provinces flooded into western Russia after the 1991 Soviet collapse. Some have formed ethnic gangs notorious for their cruelty, and many others have been involved in violent clashes with ethnic Russian nationalists and soccer fans.

Many Russians harbor anti-Caucasus sentiments, and even those who would not describe themselves as racist are resentful of the hefty subsidies sent to the Caucasus, particularly to Chechnya.

The money is designed to bring stability after two separatist wars in Chechnya, but the region remains deeply impoverished while provincial leaders and officials flaunt their wealth and are often seen driving expensive cars and throwing extravagant wedding parties.

A 19-year-old Chechen man was arrested for three days and fined $150 in 2010 after drunk-driving his SUV over the Grave of an Unknown Soldier just outside the Kremlin.

Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption lawyer and popular blogger who has helped organize a wave of massive anti-Kremlin protests, said the wedding guests got away with tiny fines because of their connections.

“This single episode completely changes our ideas about what hooliganism and anti-social behavior are,” he commented in his blog Monday.

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