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Friday, May 05, 2006

Perhaps the JRL Home Page is not Alone in Overlooking Russian Racism

"Putin has said that everyone should feel at home here, and that is of course welcome. But we want to feel safe, not at home."

-- Petrus Indongo
General Secretary
Association of African Students
Moscow University of Peoples' Friendship
Thanks to La Russophile's ever vigilent readership, she has learned about an October 2005 British government publication which claims (see page 8, paragraph 3.7.7.) that "there are some signs that the [Russian] government is attempting to improve the situation" of race violence in Russia. What are these "signs," pray tell? Quoth the report:

"In March 2005 President Putin publicly stated that the government would focus on the fight against xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and other forms of extremism. The government has established special police unit in St. Petersburg for crimes against foreigners to monitor skinhead groups and some courts have acknowledged the problems of racism and extremism."

As evidence, the report cites two convictions in the prior year, 2004. As source material, the report relies on two U.S. government publications on human rights and religious freedom.

What the U.S. human rights report on Russian race violence actually states is:
Despite appeals for tolerance during the year by President Putin and other senior officials, violence and societal prejudice against ethnic and national minorities, as well as against foreigners, increased. During the year there were numerous racially motivated attacks on members of minority groups and foreigners, particularly Asians and Africans. The approximately 1,000 African students in Moscow were routinely subjected to assaults and abuse. An informal 2002 survey of Africans, mostly students and refugees, indicated that nearly two thirds reported having been physically attacked in Moscow because of their race. Fifty four percent were verbally insulted by the police because of their race. The 180 students questioned reported experiencing 204 attacks, 160 of them reported to the police, resulting in 2 convictions.

Attacks were generally carried out by private individuals or small groups inspired by racial hatred. Law enforcement authorities knew the identity of some of the attackers based on their racial intolerance or criminal records. During the year, members of ethnic or racial minorities were the victims of beatings, extortion, and harassment by skinheads and members of other racist and extremist groups. For example, the press reported that on September 20 a group of up to 50 young persons beat and stabbed 4 individuals from the Caucasus region on the Moscow subway. Police rarely made arrests in such cases, although many such incidents were reported by human rights organizations. Many victims, particularly migrants and asylum seekers who lacked residence documents recognized by the police, chose not to report such attacks or experienced indifference on the part of police.

Skinheads, who began to appear in the early 1990s, numbered approximately 50,000 in hundreds of organizations at year's end, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Ministry reported that there were approximately 5,000 skinheads in Moscow.

There has been no significant progress in the investigation of a group of seven alleged skinheads that attacked a group of Kurdish and Turkish children from Germany in a St. Petersburg subway station in April 2003. An investigation was opened only after the German consulate lobbied local authorities.

Most authorities appeared unwilling to acknowledge the racial motivation behind antisocial brutality. For example, in St. Petersburg, where observers noted an increase in ethnic hostility, law enforcement officials often characterized perpetrators of hate crimes as spontaneous "hooligans," denying the existence of organized skinhead groups there. The City Administration and law enforcement agencies did not do enough to address the issue because of lack of resources and, in some cases, sympathy with nationalistic causes among working level staff. According to press reports, between January and July, four killings, six physical attacks, and three acts of vandalism in St. Petersburg appeared to have been motivated by ethnic hatred. In all cases the attackers were wearing skinhead attire or proclaimed nationalist slogans.

According to the MVD, 283 crimes were committed against foreign students during the year. Most of the crimes were thefts (about 43 percent) and robberies. This year most of the victims were students from China and other Asian and African countries. One third of such crimes were committed in St. Petersburg. On October 13, a 20 year old student from Vietnam was killed by a group of about 20 skinheads in St. Petersburg. Several skinheads were detained. Over 200 students from Vietnam gathered next day in protest and demanded that a fair investigation be conducted. On October 2, an Afghan native was killed in St. Petersburg. The Afghan Diaspora is certain that militia was directly involved in this murder. The investigation is still ongoing. On May 31, in St. Petersburg a student from Libya (son of the Cultural Attaché from the Libyan Embassy in Moscow), died in a hospital of knife wounds. A criminal case was initiated, but no one was detained.

In Moscow, in January, an ethnic Nanay student of the Peoples of the North Institute was killed on the way to his dormitory. In February, a 9 year old Tajik girl was killed when a group of young men, shouting "Russia for the Russians," attacked a Tajik family of three. The girl died of multiple stab wounds. In May, the son of a cultural attaché of the Libyan Embassy was knifed near the apartment he was renting. A group of 20 50 skinheads attacked four individuals from the Caucasus in a Moscow metro in September. The victims were brought to hospital with knife wounds and broken arms and legs. In Voronezh, in October, a student from Kenya was beaten; two of the attackers were detained. The incident happened 10 days after a first guilty verdict in relation to another hate crime was announced in Voronezh. Two adults were sentenced for 17 and 10 years in prison and a teenager was sentenced for 9 years in a juvenile institution for murder of a student from Africa committed in February.

On June 19, Nikolay Girenko, an expert on hate crimes and senior researcher of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography at the Russian Academy of Sciences, was killed in his apartment in St. Petersburg. An unidentified individual rang the doorbell and shot Girenko through the wooden door with a sawed off rifle. Girenko's colleagues from the Citizen's Watch and Light Center NGOs (where he was a long term collaborator on tolerance programs) were certain that the motive for the killing was Girenko's professional activity. He was an official expert for the Prosecutor's Office in a number of high profile court cases involving ethnic and religious issues, including the case of Moscow Sakharov's Center employees who were charged with inflaming ethnic hatred for hosting the exhibition "Danger, Religion!" Girenko disagreed with prosecution experts and denied that there were grounds for the charges, and partly as the result of his testimony the court returned the case to the prosecutor's office in June for further investigation.

Shortly after the killing of Girenko, a previously unknown organization, "Russian Republic," pronounced a death sentence on Girenko on its website and announced that the sentence had been carried out. St. Petersburg prosecutors reportedly issued a summons to the authors of the "Russian Republic" website, but a journalists' NGO indicated that those behind the website had decided to ignore the summons. There was no indication by year's end that the St. Petersburg authorities had pursued the case further.

In September 2003, the courts acquitted Pavel Ivanov, editor of the Velikiy Novgorod newspaper Russkoye Veche, of printing articles hostile to minorities in his newspaper. Ivanov had been charged in 2002 with inflaming ethnic hatred. Nikolay Girenko, the ethnicity expert who was killed in June, had been an expert witness in this case.

Signs of progress, then, are hard indeed to identify from the U.S. report. Moreover, of course, this report did not include reference to the spate of bloodthirsty violence that has emerged in 2006, yet based on its content such violence could easily have been predicted.

Nonetheless, La Russophobe has been informed that the British government is relying on its own report in order to send dark-skinned people from Russia who claim asylum back home, claiming that the "progress" Putin has shown means they can rely on his justice and need no protection from Britain. La Russophobe is investigating these reports and will update readers when further information becomes known.

NB: The report on Russian human rights referred to above is not the same one linked to on the JRL blog, as referred to below by La Russophobe. Therefore, this is additional material that David Johnson could be referencing. Is he? La Russophobe is still trying to find out.

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