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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Russian Ambassador, Gone Wilding

The Moscow Times publishes a report on how Russian Ambassador Yury Fedotov asked the Russian community in Britain to "report human rights abuses against Russian citizens [by the British] to the embassy." A reader writes:

What a creep! Russian's persecuted because of race in England? You should talk to the guy we helped get permission to stay in this country after he fled from Russia - beaten by police and skinheads, he has over 100 scars on his body, broken teeth and is still in pain, five years later. His car was torched and flat was trashed. He was hounded from city to city. Now he has sanctuary in the UK and he sees it as just that - sanctuary. To those in people in England who say that there is racism in the UK, he says "you don't even know the meaning of the word". He thinks England is one of the safest countries he has ever been to.

If (and it is a big "if") Russians are treated badly in the UK then the people they should blame for giving Russians a bad image over here are 1) the oligarchs (eg Abramovich)whose gross over the top lifestyle frankly disgusts many of us (as it does ordinary Russians) and 2) Putin and and his gang who poison and shoot their opponents, even in the UK. What kind of an example is that?

Frankly I don't think there is any anti-Russian sentiment amongst ordinary British people. Mr Fedotov might not like to hear it (as the Russian government like to swank that they are now people to be reckoned with and a new super power in the making) but actually most British people don't know anything about Russia, don't want to, and don't care. That's tough when you are a bully boy waiting for the local kids to admire his new suit/car/girl.

But that's just the way it is. Next thing I need to do is to sort through all those YouTube clips on Russian racism and pass them to you to post in case Mr Fedotov would like to log on to LR to view them!

(On the subject of the Poles..... there had been a flood of them coming to the UK. They are not thought badly of but whenever you have an influx of over 300,000 people in a small island undercutting all the local builders and manual workers, it is not surprising there will be some tension. Not a few previously prosperous businesses have suffered. The rate of exchange means that the lowest wages still make them rich back in Poland. But 99% of the 300,000 have stayed.)
Here's the article from the MT:

There were happy, smiling faces in England late Saturday night after Russia helped the national football team's chances of qualifying for Euro 2008 by losing 2-1 to Israel. The loss means England is now favorite to qualify. This doesn't mean, however, that Russians are going to feel any more at home there. Just a few hours earlier in a speech to over 100 people at an inaugural forum for Russian speakers in Britain, Russian Ambassador Yury Fedotov asked the community to report human rights abuses against Russian citizens to the embassy.

British-Russian relations need all the support they can get to reduce the strains produced by the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and accusations of spying on both sides. The first meeting of the "Russian Language Diaspora -- the Way to Consolidation," was an attempt to bring together Russian speakers living in the country. "The main aim is the preservation of language and culture in the next generation," Olga Bramley, who runs a private Russian-language school in London and is one of the organizers of the forum, said in a telephone interview Sunday.

Fedotov, however, had a message more in keeping with the tensions between the two countries. "There are people who face serious problems due to the growing tendency of xenophobia, the hostile attitude to foreigners," he said, RIA Novosti reported. "People, just because they do not belong to the core majority -- including those from our country -- have been unfairly convicted by the courts and beaten in the streets and in student hostels, and the police did not investigate because they think 'Russians come flooding here -- why waste time on them?'" Fedotov said. "We need to defend our dignity, our legal interests," he said.

Crime and racist attacks have driven hundreds of Poles to return early to Central Europe, The Guardian reported earlier this month. Racism against eastern and central European immigrants in rural areas is growing, the paper reported. Neither report mentioned Russians. In Russia, meanwhile, there had been 52 murders in the country qualifying as hate crimes up to October, and another 400 people injured. No information was available for crimes against Russians in Britain. "I have not dealt with such incidents, so I can't really comment," said Bramley. She said that if the embassy had received complaints of this type, it had a duty to raise them.

The Russian and Moscow City governments, which have criticized foreign governments for their support of human rights organizations and nongovernmental organizations in Russia, helped fund the forum. "It's classic case of double standards," said Vladimir Ryzhkov, an independent opposition State Duma deputy, "Our security structures humiliate people, humiliate immigrants, take money from them every day and that's OK. But if a foreign government does it, it's not." Organizers, speaking before the forum, were more concerned with the mundane aspects of life in Britain. None of them mentioned racist attacks as being on the agenda for the forum. More than 80 Russian-language organizations from all over Britain gathered for the forum's first meeting Saturday at the Central Hall Westminster -- which hosted the first meeting of the United Nations in 1947. The forum was designed to unite a Russian-speaking community whose diversity means many are left without the support that other expat communities have on arrival, organizers said.

Estimates on the number of Russian speakers living in Britain vary from 300,000 to 800,000. London mayor Ken Livingstone estimated earlier this year that there are 200,000 Russians in London alone. There has clearly been an influx of moneyed Russians in recent years, with one-fifth of all London homes sold for $10 million or up in 2006 being bought by Russians. There is a great variety of Russian speakers, said Dmitry Drozdov, the editor of London-Info, one of four Russian language newspapers in London. "There are old immigrants -- Soviet, the new immigrants and the oligarchs, and they do not want to mix," he said. The time has come to coordinate efforts to integrate into society, Bramley said, speaking before the forum. The Russian-speaking community has become increasingly visible in recent years with its newspapers, a network of food stores selling everything from imported milk products to Russian-language DVDs and a growing number of schools. "It is a sign of a proper community," said Drozdov, adding that they needed to build on this.

One of the aims, he said, is to correct the distorted view of the Russian community. "The image alternates between crime and mafia, and oligarchs, KGB and spies." he said "The first thing people think is that Russians are rich like Berezovsky and Abramovich, which is wrong."

"I hope that this forum will help to provide a true image of the Russian community and not that which is in the British press," said Drozdov.

One Russian expat, who asked not to be identified, said the image has hampered their attempts to get funding for community work. When one Russian-language group applied to a local council for a grant, an official replied: "Why don't you ask [Russian tycoon Roman] Abramovich for money?" Aina Shareefy, who runs a Russian school in west London, said the forum was a way to create a community that would provide advice and help to recent immigrants. Newly arrived Russian speakers often find dealing with the British educational system difficult, she said.

It can be tough adapting to British life, she said.


Anonymous said...

Any state, especially a democratic state, is entitled to defend itself against subversion and threats to the democratic order.

Hard to disagree... But he forgot to qualify his statement by saying “Any state except Russia is entitled to defend itself...” That’s closer to the real position being advanced by the West.

It appears that Patarkatsishvili is Georgia’s Berezovsky and Saakashvili is Georgia’s version of Putin.

Anonymous said...

I previously posted this in the wrong thread...

“Any state, especially a democratic state, is entitled to defend itself against subversion and threats to the democratic order.”

Hard to disagree, but he forgot to qualify his statement by saying “Any state except Russia is entitled to defend itself.” That’s the real position being put forward by the West.

Patarkatsishvili is Georgia’s Berezovsky and Saakashvili is Georgia’s version of Putin.