MOSCOW (Reuters) – A taxi crashed into a crowd of pedestrians near Moscow's Red Square on Saturday, wounding eight people, including two Mexicans in the city, for the soccer World Cup that Russia organizes, said officials and witnesses.
The incident occurred while residents and football fans visited the center from Moscow a pleasant summer afternoon, a short distance from the Kremlin.
Moscow's traffic management authority said the taxi driver had a driver's license issued in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic mainly Muslim. He cited the driver, who was in police custody, who said he had not conducted the crowd on purpose.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in a Twitter post: "There was an unpleasant incident with a taxi, the driver lost control of the vehicle."
City police said they had opened a criminal investigation into an alleged violation of the traffic code.
Eight people were injured and were taken to the hospital, the health department of the city of Moscow said in a statement. He said that seven were in satisfactory condition, while one woman was seriously injured.
The Mexican embassy in Moscow said that two Mexican women had been slightly injured. Also among the wounded were a Ukrainian citizen and two Russian citizens, the Russian news agency TASS quoted an emergency services source as saying.
The video of the incident posted on social networks showed that the Hyundai yellow taxi suddenly leaves a line of stationery traffic, accelerates and rides the narrow pavement, which was full of pedestrians.
The vehicle traveled about 10 meters along the pavement, knocking down the pedestrians, and some of them were dragged by the bonnet of the car.
The taxi stopped after hitting a traffic sign. While the spectators tried to open the door on the driver's side, the driver, dressed in black pants and a black T-shirt, jumped and ran.
More passers-by pursued him and could be seen trying to knock him down when the video ended.
MEXICO FOOTBALL PARTY
A witness told Reuters that some of the people attacked were wearing the colors of the Mexican team. Mexico will face Germany on Sunday in its first World Cup match at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, and thousands of Mexican fans are in the Russian capital.
A second witness at the scene told Reuters about the taxi driver: "They took him out of the vehicle, he ran out but passers-by apprehended him, shouting:" It was not me. "
Another witness, Viktoria Geraimovich, said he called the emergency services on his mobile phone.  Describing the actions of the driver, she said: "He found a group of Mexicans. There were screams, moans. They only stopped him because he hit a traffic signal. "
" Someone punched him in the face. He stayed in the car, the people approached him, he told him what he was doing, he punched him in the face, he opened the door and he tried to flee "
" It's scary that he was in the center (of Moscow)) and I was right in front, "he said.
The Moscow traffic management authority said the driver was not drunk and the Interfax news agency quoted a source who said there was no alcohol in his blood.
The same source told Interfax that the driver had said he had fallen asleep at the wheel and accidentally pressed the accelerator pedal.
The Russian authorities have promised to organize a safe football World Cup, which Russia is hosting for the first time. taking place in 11 cities until July 15.
In the center of Moscow, the authorities installed heavy concrete blocks at the entrances to the pedestrian areas after a series of incidents in European cities where they were used. Vehicles to bring down people.
The US Department of State. UU He updated his travel advice on Russia on Friday, saying that terrorist groups were planning attacks.
"Terrorists can attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist sites, transportation hubs, markets / shopping centers, and local government facilities," the travel notice states.
The Moscow traffic authority posted on Twitter a copy of what it said was the taxi driver's license. He gave his name as Chingiz Anarbek Uulu and said he was born on April 22, 1990.
He gave his birthplace as the city of Kochkor-Ata in Kyrgyzstan, near the border with Uzbekistan.
An account on the Russian social media platform Odnoklassniki for someone with the same name and date of birth was last updated two years ago.
The last video he posted on his page showed chapter 82 of the Koran, the holy book of Islam, which discussed the day of judgment. There was nothing on the page that suggested links to, or sympathy with, Islamist militant groups.
People walking through downtown Moscow on Saturday night said they were aware of the taxi incident, but that did not discourage them from spending time in the city. The streets were crowded with people listening to the performance of street musicians or sitting in cafes.
"We are not scared, but disappointed," said Youseff Fraige, 27, of Monterrey, Mexico.
"We did not expect something like this to happen in a place like this, it could happen anywhere in the world, but it happens here in Moscow, in the middle of the World Cup, it's shocking for us."
Report by Christian Lowe, Maria Kiselyova, Jack Stubbs, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Tom Balmforth; Written by Christian Lowe; Editing by Stephen Powell