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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Another Foreign Student Murdered In Russia

From the St. Petersburg Times

African Student Gunned Down
By Ali Nassor and Carl Schreck
Staff Writer

An African student was fatally shot on Friday with a weapon bearing a swastika symbol, raising the hate crime murder toll in St. Petersburg to six in seven months.

The fifth year student of the St. Petersburg State University of Telecommunications, Lamzer Samba, 28, from Senegal died instantly of two bullet wounds when he was shot from behind by an unidentified man in the early morning on his way home from the Apollo nightclub where he and his friends had been celebrating the university’s anniversary. An electrician with a previous conviction on arms charges has been detained in connection with the shooting death, prosecutors said Monday.

The suspect, Alexei Kutarev, 28, was detained Friday after investigators found his fingerprints on a beer bottle in a trashcan near the place where the student was killed, St. Petersburg news web site reported Monday.

Kutarev, who lives in a nearby apartment building, has a conviction for the possession and sale of firearms, said, citing investigators.

“It’s too early to reveal the details in the initial stage of the investigation,” said Yelena Ordynskaya, a senior aide to the City Prosecutor Sergei Zaitsev. “We think we will solve the murder soon given the evidence at our disposal,” Ordynskaya said.

“Lamzer was not a frequent visitor to night spots. I can hardly remember a day he went to a nightclub,” said the head of the city’s Senegalese Students Union, Jean Valery, adding that “he was so dedicated to his studies and such an active anti-fascist campaigner that he was involved in the proactive awareness campaign.”

Samba was running to catch up with a group of five friends in front of him when a gunman hiding on the corner of 5th Krasnoarmeiskaya Street shot him in the back and sneaked away unnoticed.

The murder weapon was found at the scene of the incident and its swastika symbol gave the City Prosecutor’s Office grounds to classify the case as a hate crime, though they have not ruled out other motives.

Samba, who was due to defend his degree thesis this year, was also engaged in an anti-fascist awareness campaign jointly run by the Russian youth movement Nashi and the St Petersburg African Union to which he belonged.

“Samba was one of us, a devotee to the anti-fascist cause,” Leonid Kurzan, head of Nashi’s St. Petersburg branch, told a number of activists who gathered at the Mayakovskaya Public Library to mourn Samba’s death on Saturday.

“He was appealing both to us and to the schoolchildren he lectured on the spirit of tolerance and friendship,” Kurzan said.

On Tuesday the Nashi movement is expected to hold an anti-fascist public demonstration to be attended by human rights activists from various organizations, ethnic minorities and members of the public on Dumskaya Ulitsa, close to Gostiny Dvor, in a show of protest against the city’s recent wave of violent hate crimes.

However, Dmitry Dubrovsky, head of Ethnic Studies at the St. Petersburg European University, frowned on the demonstration, saying, “It’s a chance for political organizations to boost their public image.”

“They use the tragedy to meet their political ends, but you can hardly find anyone among them who is really committed to fighting fascism,” said Dubrovsky.

“It’s appalling to realize that the worst is yet to come as fascists will be celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday in April,” said Desire Deffo, deputy head of the St. Petersburg African Union.
“It’s equally alarming that the fascists are achieving their goal of inspiring terror in anyone who is not with them,” he added, saying, “It is in St. Petersburg that the real ‘terrorists’ should be annihilated.”

But Kurzan said it would be wrong to look into the problems of fascism, xenophobia and racism from the St. Petersburg contextual point of view without paying heed to its national scale.
“Fascists are the same, regardless of the place or the historical period they operate in; be it in the World War II era or in peacetime in Russia,” he said.

According to City Hall’s statistics, the number of foreign students dropped down to about 13,500 this year from about 15,000 last year.

Professor Tamara Smirnova, one of the heads of the Petropol Research Center at the House of National Cultures, said the drastic fall in the number of foreign students in the city was “mainly due to the alarming rate of hate crimes.”

Samba was gunned down less than two weeks after a racist knife attack on a nine-year-old African-Russian girl and about six weeks after a 33-year-old Ivory Coast man was stabbed in attacks. Both survived.

“Perhaps that’s why they have resorted to guns now, as knives would spare some of our lives,” said Deffo.

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