RUSSIA: Far East university knife fight

A quarrel between Russian and Chinese students outside Vladivostok's State University of Economy and Service escalated into a violent battle that left three Russians with knife wounds. The fight made headline news across Russia when mobile telephone footage of the conflict was posted on a local news agency site. The grainy images showed an argument between two students that quickly escalated as other Russian and Chinese youths appeared on the scene close to the state university's main entrance in the Far East port city.

Russian media reports quoted unnamed witnesses as saying that as many as 40 young men were involved in the fight that was witnessed by many more students. Knifes and bottles were used as weapons during the incident. The fight was broken up by university security guards but not before three Russian students suffered knife wounds.

Relations between Vladivostok's large Chinese community and Russian residents have been under pressure in recent months following a local government crackdown on illegal Chinese street markets although violent clashes are understood to be rare.

While these sorts of incidents between different ethnic groups are rare on Russian university campuses, conflict between the dominant Russian community and other ethnic groups occurs in cities and towns across the nation, often involving members of far right-wing racist gangs.

But the Russian government is trying to crack down on racist violence. Alexander Belov, leader of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, was charged last week with inciting racial hatred for comments he allegedly made at a Moscow rally last year. Belov faces up to two years in prison if convicted.