The authorities in Russia are on alert for a violent far-right reaction to the murder of Yuri Budanov, a notorious former colonel who became an icon for extreme nationalists.
Mr Budanov was shot four times in the head in central Moscow on Friday, in an attack that far-right groups immediately blamed on Chechens.
The police claimed the killing could be a “provocation” intended to ignite smouldering ethnic tension in Russia.
Mr Budanov was convicted in 2003 of having brutally murdered teenager Elza Kungayeva during a tour of duty in war-torn Chechnya, after being cleared of the killing in a previous trial.
He was granted early release from jail in 2009 due to good behaviour, to the fury of Ms Kungayeva’s family and many others, who saw him as the embodiment of the brutal methods used by the Kremlin to crush Chechnya’s rebels.
He was hailed as a hero, however, by some soldiers and officials and by ultra-nationalist groups that have grown in number and prominence in recent years, and which often target people from the mostly-Muslim Caucasus republics.
Extra patrols and riot police were deployed around Moscow after Mr Budanov was gunned down.
Investigators sought to prevent potential reprisals against people from the Caucasus by saying that eyewitnesses had described the getaway driver as being of typically Slavic appearance.
Heightened security measures were put in place around Manezh Square next to the Kremlin where, six months ago, thousands of nationalists rioted in a furious response to the alleged murder of a football fan by a youth from the Caucasus.
A number of well-known leaders of nationalist and football fan groups gathered again on the square following Mr Budanov’s murder.
The police prevented large crowds from forming, and the security services were on guard for potential trouble during yesterday’s annual Russia Day events.
Football fans and soldiers were among those who placed flowers and other tributes at the place where Mr Budanov was killed.
Many of these people are expected to attend his funeral this week.
Last month, an ultra-nationalist was convicted of the murder in 2009 of lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who was campaigning against Mr Budanov’s early release from jail.