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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Racism in Russia

News24 reports on the increasing horrors of racism in Russia, including state complicity:

Racism in Russia reached a new peak last year with far right groups carrying out more brazen attacks and the state organising a crackdown on ethnic Georgians, said a human rights group on Monday.

In its annual report the respected monitoring centre Sova said that far right skinhead groups were no longer operating in the shadows. Researcher Galina Kozhevnikova said: "In place of knuckle-dusters, knives and fists, skinheads are switching to guns and bombs. "We are seeing crimes of a demonstrative character, not committed under cover of darkness in back courtyards but in the presence of cameras and crowds, with the intention of creating an effect."

Far right extremists were diversifying outside Moscow and had organised co-ordinated rallies across Russia, she added. In particular, she referred to the break-up by skinheads of a gay rights march last May and a racially motivated bomb attack on a Moscow market in August that left 11 people dead. By a conservative estimate, the number of victims of racist attacks last year rose by 17% to 539, of whom 54 people died, said the report.

'Discriminatory campaign'

Sova also took aim at President Vladimir Putin's government over an anti-Georgian crackdown during a diplomatic spat last year and campaigns to restrict foreigners from working in markets.

"For the first time we've seen an officially sanctioned discriminatory campaign, which we witnessed against Georgians last autumn," said Kozhevnikova.

The report said: "Television and part of the print media immediately began to participate in what in essence was racist propaganda. "One can talk about an attempt by the authorities to seize the 'nationalist initiative' not only in the form of slogans but their methods of work." Foreign governments have voiced growing concern at a rising tide of racist attacks in Russia, many of the attacks being on foreigners, typically students in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and elsewhere

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