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Friday, June 09, 2006

Yet Another Race Attack in Russia

The Moscow Times reports on YET ANOTHER cowardly assault by Russian racists on dark-skinned foreign students, this time an attack by a group upon a group in a clear neo-Nazi escalation that included the use of official credentials:

Seven men who identified themselves as police officers attacked and robbed a group of 10 Tajik students in a dormitory room Wednesday night, sparking new fears about the safety of dark-skinned students in Russia.

Five students at the State Management University in southeastern Moscow were hospitalized with cuts and bruises, and the dormitory was placed under high security Thursday.

Several accounts said police officers were carrying out a revenge attack but had targeted the wrong group of students.

The Tajik Embassy said it was extremely concerned about the incident and the safety of the more than 2,000 Tajik students enrolled in Moscow schools but that it was too early to say whether racism had played a role in the attack.

Some students said they had no doubt that the attack was racially motivated. Investigators were treating the incident as a standard robbery and assault.

The City Prosecutor's Office, which has taken over the investigation of the case from district prosecutors, said a man in civilian clothes knocked on the door of a room in the dormitory on Ryazansky Prospekt, near the Vykhino metro station, at about 8 p.m. He flashed a police badge and ordered the Tajik students to open the door.

"When they opened the door for him, six men also in civilian clothes followed him into the room and started beating the students with lug wrenches and kicking them," prosecutor's office spokesman Sergei Marchenko said. One of the students dropped his cell phone, which the attackers grabbed before fleeing the scene, Marchenko said.

The Tajik Embassy said at least 10 students had gathered in the room to eat dinner together. The assailants stole money and cell phones from several students, it said.

Campus security guards clustered around the main entrance to the 18-story, lime-green dormitory Thursday afternoon, allowing in only students with ID cards.

Speaking outside the building, campus security chief Alexander Alexeyev said several of the Tajik students were resting in their rooms. "The most important thing is that the guys are alive and well," he said. He declined to release their names, but said they were first-, second- and third-year students.

Several students milling around outside the dormitory were convinced the attack was racially motivated.
"They were beaten because the color of their skin was different," said Shamil, a 17-year-old first-year student from Dagestan.

Dark-skinned migrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia are commonly targeted by Moscow beat officers because they often lack registration and can be easily extorted for bribes.

Wednesday's attack, however, was completely different.

Sergei Komkov, head of the All-Russia Education Foundation, said the students had recognized one of the attackers as a beat officer stationed near the Ryazansky Prospekt metro station who had clashed with a group of students from Dagestan and Ingushetia a day earlier, reported.

He said the officer had showed up at the dormitory with a number of friends on Wednesday night to seek revenge -- but apparently had picked the wrong room. He said two attackers had worn police uniform pants.
Ekho Moskvy reported the dormitory's supervisor was the wife of the deputy head of the Vykhino police precinct and had had a run-in with an Ingush man at the dormitory on Tuesday. It said she had asked the police to come deal with the man the next day and the Tajik students were mistakenly targeted.

Law enforcement officers in Russia, like their counterparts in the West, tend to be more prone to xenophobia than the rest of the population, said Vladimir Novitsky, legal director at the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, which tracks racially motivated attacks in Russia.

"It's no secret that tolerance is not very well developed in Russia, and even less so in the law enforcement community," he said.

Police declined to deny or confirm the attackers were officers. "They showed a police badge when they entered the dormitory, but whether it was a real badge is still unclear," police spokesman Yevgeny Gildeyev said. "We're still trying to establish their identities." But a duty officer at a precinct in southeast Moscow told Ekho Moskvy a team of officers had in fact visited the dormitory but that "no one touched the students."
"The situation was exactly the opposite," the unidentified officer said. "The students were arguing among themselves, and the officers arrived after the incident started and broke things up."

Later in the afternoon, the City Prosecutor's Office released a statement saying that only its information could be considered "official and objective" because "it is based on the materials of the investigation."

Mukhammad Egamzod, a spokesman for the Tajik Embassy, expressed shock over the attack.

"Such crimes, often committed by skinheads, have become common on the streets," Egamzod said. "But it's shocking that a group of policemen could break into a dormitory and attack them with such impudence." He said it remained unclear whether racism had played a role, "but I think that could end up being the case." Human rights watchdogs have noted a spike in racially motivated attacks in recent years; dark-skinned migrants from the Caucasus or Central Asia, such as Tajiks, are common targets of police harassment.

Several students from Africa have been assaulted or killed by young people in apparent racially motivated attacks around the country in recent months


Anonymous said...

Just a reminder that this is not a recent phenomenon: Today I have been passed a report by an NGO worker in St Petersburg dated four years ago:

"An awful tragedy happened at the end of September which made the Tajik refugees flee the city. Two of the women, together with their children, were attacked very near the camp by a group of about 20 skinheads. One of the women received 26 stabs wounds trying to protect her 6 year old daughter who in the end was beaten to death. The mother was taken to hospital and was only admitted after we paid for her to be able to stay, otherwise she would have been sent on her way after only one day. It's hard to imagine how these people cope with all the suffering wherever they go in their search for somewhere to live peacefully."

It makes a nonsense of the claim that this is a temporary phenomenon and of any claim that the authorities are "taking control" of the situation.

La Russophobe said...

Do you have any more information about this attack? Any chance of getting a copy of the report you reference? We'd love to follow up on this if possible.

I have reported an item about a killing of a Tajik girl by stabbing last February (
review-of-race-violence-in-russia.html) but I don't think I've heard about this beating, although it is hard to keep them straight. In fact, you seem to be indicating a pattern of violence specifically aimed at Tajiks, which is a problem in and of itself a part from general racism.

Thanks for the comment!