Mass fight breaks out at Russian gas field

Nine people are in hospital after a fight between about 300 migrant workers from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan at Gazprom’s Kovykta gas field in East Siberia.

Several videos of the incident were posted on the Russian social network VK, which suggested the brawl began about noon local time on 23 June in a queue near a canteen.

By the evening, it had spread to other parts of an office compound and temporary housing where migrants stay during their shifts.

Some fighters were using sticks and steel bars as weapons.

The Irkutsk regional department of the Russian Interior Ministry sent a group of investigators to the field to determine “active participants of the conflict that is believed to have started as an argument”.

Thousands of shift workers, mainly from former Soviet Union republics in Central Asia, are building infrastructure at the Kovykta field where state-controlled Gazprom must increase gas production quickly to fulfil its long-term supply contract with China.

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The contract calls Gazprom to boost natural gas supplies to an annual level of 38 billion cubic metres after 2025. The gas comes from just two fields in East Siberia — Chayanda and Kovykta located 800 kilometres apart — that are linked to China by the Sila Sibiri 1 pipeline.

A spokesperson for St Petersburg-based privately held contractor Gazstroyprom has been unable to confirm suggestions that fighting migrants are employed by company’s regional subsidiary, GSP-7.

GSP-7, together with two other Russian contractors at Kovykta — Stroytransneftegaz and Gazartstroy — have been working on major construction assignments for Gazprom in East Siberia, according to Russian media reports.

The contractors are understood to rely mainly on workers from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan — three countries with low incomes and many unemployed young people.

Independent radio station Azattyk quoted Kyrgyzstan Foreign Ministry as saying that five of the people needing hospital treatment are Kyrgyzstan citizens.

A Kyrgyzstan consul in Moscow will go to Irkutsk to help to act as translators for the local police.

Kyrgyzstan earlier said that more than 1 million of its citizen were working in Russia last year.