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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Russian Racism Strikes Again!

The Moscow Times reports:

A 21-year-old anti-skinhead activist was stabbed repeatedly Sunday evening in St. Petersburg in an apparent attack by extremists.

Ivan Yelin was taken to the intensive care unit of St. Petersburg Hospital No. 26, where his condition was described as critical.

Yelin, who had been stabbed 20 times, sustained wounds to his liver, kidney and other areas, suffering massive blood loss.

The St. Petersburg prosecutor's office has opened a criminal case, labeling the attack attempted murder. No suspects have been detained.

Anti-skinhead activists are convinced that local ultranationalists were behind the attack.

"Members of skinhead gangs routinely show up at anti-fascist and human rights meetings," said Ruslan Linkov, head of the group Democratic Russia. "Ultranationalists take photographs of the participants and also follow human rights activists to their homes."

Prior to the attack, Yelin had been taking part in a humanitarian initiative, Food, Not Bombs, providing homeless people with food outside the Vladimirskaya metro station in the center of the city.

Oleg, who was also at Food, Not Bombs and asked that his real name not be used out of concern for his safety, said that on Sunday, "Ivan was more noticeable than the others. He was putting food into bowls and giving it to people. Naturally, he drew more attention."

Oleg added that after the event, most volunteers went to a rock concert at a nearby club, but Yelin went home by himself, "making him an obvious target."

Sunday's attack has parallels with the November 2005 attack on Timur Kacharava, an anti-skinhead activist stabbed to death outside a book store in the city center. The attack followed a Food, Not Bombs event.

Violence directed against foreigners and ethnic minorities has prompted some activists to consider stopping their demonstrations for a more open and tolerant Russia.

Not only do activists fear being attacked by skinheads, they say, they also contend that they are treated with a mixture of suspicion tinged with hostility by police. Meanwhile, they add, political leaders and the public at large seem indifferent to their cause.

Activists find that extremists and police often outnumber them at their own rallies.

"We have to face it: Ordinary citizens prefer to stay away from human-rights or anti-fascist meetings," said Iosif Skakovsky of the human rights group Memorial. "It does not help things that the authorities and law enforcement agencies, both on the local and federal level, have demonstrated an outrageous lack of leadership and seem content with being in a state of denial about hate crimes."

Said Oleg: "More and more of us are strongly considering giving up the fight. I have personally been attacked by skinheads, who kicked me in the head with their heavy boots."

He added: "It is not the fear of physical attack that makes me doubtful about defending the cause. Rather, it is our failure to make a difference in the minds of ordinary Russians that is most frustrating."

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