alert!Dossier Rusland

Redactie Alert!

Aanslagen door neonazi's, waarvan sommige met dodelijke afloop op migranten, antifascisten en mensenrechtenactivisten behoren intussen tot het dagelijks leven in grote Russische steden. Op 6 april werd in St. Petersburg de 28-jarige Samba Lanpsar, antiracisme-activist van de groep 'African Unity', op straat door een schot in zijn nek gedood. Hij kwam net met een groepje vrienden van een multicultureel feest, toen een groep neonazi's hen aanviel. Het wapen, dat versierd was met een hakenkruis, werd later in een achtertuin gevonden.

Tien dagen later was het weer raak; in Moskou werd de 19-jarige Sasha Ryuhin, die op weg was naar een hardcore-concert, door 8 neonazi's aangevallen en gericht in hart en hals gestoken. De daders droegen plastic handschoenen om geen sporen achter te laten.

Eind vorig jaar, om precies te zijn op 13 november 2005 werd op klaarlichte dag op straat in het centrum van St. Petersburg de 20-jarige student, pacifist en antifascist Timur Katscharawa met messteken in de hals gedood. Nazi-skinheads verwondden ook een vriend van hem ernstig.

Hieronder documenteren wij chronologisch vanaf november 2005 enige artikelen, onder andere van onze Russische collega's van het Antifanet-network, in het Engels over de situatie in Rusland.

Racist murder in St. Petersburg, November 2005
Fascists march in Moscow, December 2005
Russian anti-fascists face terror, January 2006
Hitlerite synagogue attack in Moscow, March 2006
The Movement against Illegal Immigration – a fascist growth area, April 2006
Human Rights Watch condems violence against homosexuals in Russia, May 2006
Short news Russia, June 2006
Holiday Weekend Attacks, news from SOVA-Center, June 2006
St. Petersburg struggles to dispel image, AP 22.06.2006
Bigotry Monitor -- UCSJ's weekly newsletter Nr.22 vom 23.06.2006

Searchlight November 2005

Racist murder in St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg police have arrested four youths for the racist murder, on 9 September, of Roland Eposeka, a 29-year-old Congolese student. The gang's leader, Andrej Gerasimov, 20, twice stabbed Eposeka, who died in a local hospital four days later. Another of the men had a swastika as wallpaper for his mobile phone. Shortly before Eposeka's murder, top St. Petersburg nazi Yuri Belyayev boasted that he was organising "white street patrols".
Just days before they attacked Roland Eposeka, they had assaulted three dark-skinned foreigners and, three days before their arrest, a 26 years old Jordanian attacked by a four-strong gang was lucky to escape death. Police now think the gang could have been responsible for three other racist killings and several attacks in the city's Kalininsky district between 2003 and 2005.
Since January this year, police have registered 1,488 crimes in which the victims were foreigners. Following the stabbing, foreign students in St. Petersburg organised a protest on 15 September. Aliu Tunkara, the president of African Unity, the main organisation of Africans in St. Petersburg, said that the victims of such attacks have lost teeth and eyes and have been left paralysed or disabled. Tunkara's colleague, Ali Nassor a journalist from Zanzibar who has lived in Russia and who co- founded of African Unity in 1999 said that in the 1980s when groups of young people often insulted Africans, calling them "monkeys" and other epithets, and attacked them, officials proclaimed their "internationalism" and accused the capitalist West of racism. Now, the police explain away such cases as simple hooliganism and refuse to see any racist motivation. In Eposeka's case, they even accused him of keeping "bad company".
People from Africa and Asia mostly come to as students or for commercial reasons. Africans remain a rarity in Russian society, though, except in university centres like Moscow, St. Petersburg, Voronezh and Ekaterinburg.
Meanwhile, mindful of a loss of up to $20 million income that could result from an exodus of the St. Petersburg's 10,000 foreign students, the city government has launched a campaign to promote "tolerance" and Russian president Vladimir Putin has promised a crackdown on those who organise assaults on foreigners. A third of all attacks on foreign students in Russia occur in St.Petersburg.

From Mara Vladimirova for Antifa-Net in Moscow

Searchlight December 2005

Fascists march in Moscow
Fascists marched through the centre of Moscow on 4 November. The demonstration, allowed by the Moscow authorities and attended by more than 3,000 hardline nationalists was their biggest in the city for several years. Though it was organised by Pavel Zarifullin's Eurasian Youth Movement, many other ultra-nationalist groups and parties took part.
Among these were The Movement Against Illegal Immigration, the Russian Pan-national Union, the National State Party of Russia, the Russian Social Movement, the National-Patriotic Front, the Peoples' National Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party, activists from Pamyat (Memory) and a mob of skinheads. Before the march started, participants engaged in a public row about who should head the column and which group's banners they should use.
In the end, the marchers carried banners reading "Moscow against occupiers!", "The Russians are coming!" "Russians, forward!" while chanting "Russia for Russians!", "Moscow for Muscovites!", "Sieg Heil!", "Vivat imperia!" and the old Stalinist slogan "Death to the enemy!" Not much was heard because the girls hired as drummerettes drowned the slogans. The march was not very popular with passers-by who loudly heckled the fascists who were also attacked by anti-fascists, eight of whom were arrested.
The demo ended with a meeting where Zarifullin, Victor Yakushev, an ex-veteran of Pamyat, Nikolaj Kuryanovich, a Liberal Democratic Party MP and others made speeches called for Russia to be cleansed of immigrants. As a finale, the fascists put up their right arms in the nazi salute and yelled "Vivat Russia!" Later, march organisers were arrested and fined for an infringement of the assembly laws: there were more participants than notified to the police.
A similar march took place at the same time in St. Petersburg, organised by the Peoples' Uprising movement and the National Conservative Party of Russia. The racist Movement Against Illegal Immigration and nazis from the Russian National Union (RNE) also took part.
On 7 November, some of the participants on the 4 November march met with Zhirinovsky in the State Duma and discussed the possibilities of forming a coalition against the pro-Kremlin United Russia party.
Another party, Dmitry Rogozin's Rodina (Motherland) did not officially participate in the Moscow march but its latest leaflet for the 4 December elections to Moscow City Council repeats the same slogan – "Moscow for Muscovites!" – and echoes the march's themes.

From Mara Vladimirova for Antifa-Net in Moscow

Searchlight - January 2006

Russian anti-fascists face terror
Saint Petersburg, already known as one of the most perilous cities in Russia for coloured people and national minorities, has now became the most menacing place for anti-fascists. This was confirmed on 13 November when another fascist murder rocked Russia's second city. The victim this time was Timur Kacharava, aged 20, an anti-fascist and punk musician from a local anarchist group and a philosophy student at St. Petersburg State University, stabbed to death by an unknown nazi.
Kacharava's anti-fascist group was active (especially in the last few months) in successful street actions against the nazis and, known as a conscious and devoted anti-fascist, Kacharava had been a nazi target for some time. Indeed, although battered and sprayed with gas by a nazi gang in October 2005, he still continued his activities.
On the day of his murder, he had been walking with a group of his comrades near Vladimirskaya metro station. Most of group entered a bookshop but Kacharava and a colleague, Maxim Zgibay, waited outside. Almost immediately, a gang of blade-wielding skinheads assaulted them. Zgibay was badly wounded and Kacharava was killed, knifed right through his throat. Although the shop is located on one of St. Petersburg city centre's most crowded streets, there was no police intervention to stop the attack. The next day, nazis attacked friend of Kacharava beating her up and painting a swastika on her face.
According to Russian tradition, nine days after Kacharava's brutal murder, about 150 young people gathered to lay flowers at the site of his death, aware now – and not only from history books – that fascism kills – even today. Sadly, their resolution has not been emulated by the city's administration, which evidently could not be bothered to send a representative to the murder scene nor to demonstrate any indignation.
In St. Petersburg, a city whose citizens heroically withstood 900 days of siege from Hitler's Wehrmacht and SS hordes during the Second World War, it is shameful that the authorities are incapable of a crackdown against today's homegrown nazis.
The June 2004 murder of Nikolai Girenko, a scientist and a courageous defender of minority rights, provoked a similar torpor on the part of the authorities whose investigation of the crime failed completely. If anything, the nazis were encouraged, daubing the apartment door of the chairperson of the anti-fascist commission of the Human Rights organisation Memorial with swastikas and nazi symbols immediately after Girenko's funeral and subjecting her to telephone terror. Several other local anti-racist and anti-fascist activists have since been threatened or attacked.
If the city bosses of St. Petersburg are indifferent, their Moscow colleagues, anxious about the preparations for the coming elections to the city council, are downright repressive… towards anti-fascists.
On 27 November, they banned an anti-fascist march – applied for well in advance – to protest at the fascist march that took place on 4 November and to oppose activities of the Against Illegal Immigration Movement planned for the 27 November.
Despite doing everything by the book, the anti-fascists were not allowed to say "NO to fascism" even though some of Russia's most prominent democrats, journalists, writers, human rights advocates and musicians were numbered among the signatures of the appeal for the demonstration.
Angered by this stance, the organisers called people to rally despite the prohibition. "Our grandparents did not hand over Moscow to the fascists in 1941, why should we do so in 2005?" demanded the appeal published on the websites of democratic organisations, including Memorial, and signed again by many prominent democrats. In the event, only about 200 brave people dared turn out after the police promised that they would "enforce the law". That is exactly what happened: no sooner than the anti-fascists arrived at the city hall to protest at the ban, the police went into action, insulting people and pushing them around, leaving one person with concussion and arresting many of them. Interestingly, some police officers actually felt solidarity with some of the arrested anti-fascists and released them soon afterwards without any charges. Other police were more favourable to the city administration and brought dozens of people to two nearby police stations where some detainees were held for up to seven hours. According to Russian law, this is illegal, detention without charge being limited to three hours.
On 29 and 30 November, a court convicted the anti-fascists and fined them for taking part in an illegal demonstration. Strangely, convicted men convicted were fined double the amount of the fines imposed on women convicted for the same offence.
Also, on 27 of November, activities were staged in Moscow by the racist Against Illegal Immigration Movement, together with the Rodina (Motherland) party, led by Dmitri Rogozin who was recently banned from the election campaign for making a TV publicity broadcast inciting race hatred.
In their campaign, the racists dished out leaflets declaring "Moscow belongs to us!" and "Russians, arm yourselves!" the latter slogan accompanied by an explanation of how to buy weapons "legally". While anti-fascists were being manhandled and literally hurled into police buses, the racists were able to hand out their filth with impunity.
A photo from the anti-fascist demonstration shows a policeman walking away with a piece of paper that is obviously the torn-off fragment of a broken poster. It says "... prefer fascists?" Maybe, after the disgraceful conduct of the police on the day, the author of the poster would consider replacing the question mark with an exclamation mark.

From Mina Sodman for Antifa-Net in Saint Petersburg 

Searchlight - March 2006

Hitlerite synagogue attack in Moscow
On 11 January, a man ran amok with a hunting knife and stabbed nine people in a Moscow synagogue. As the man, Alexander Koptsev, 20, burst into the building, he had screamed "Heil Hitler!" and "I will kill everybody". Luckily, nobody was killed and Koptsev was immediately arrested and charged with attempted murder motivated by national hatred and with arousing national hostility. Koptsev later boasted to police that he was influenced by antisemitic and nationalist literature circulated on the internet. Although a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf was found at his home after a police search, Koptsev was not, it appears, a known member of any nazi group. If convicted, he will faces between eight and twenty years in prison or even a life sentence. Several days after the Moscow synagogue, an eighteen-year-old student entered a synagogue in Rostov-on-Don, threatening to injure people and shouting racist and nationalist insults. Immediately arrested before he injured anybody, the student told police that Koptsev had been his inspiration.
Meanwhile, the Moscow Prosecutor's office has launched an investigation into the spread of nationalist and antisemitic propaganda on the internet in a bid to catch up on independent research bodies. The Moscow Bureau in Moscow continued on 6 February when a 30-strong gang of skinheads attacked reggae musicians attending a concert to commemorate the birthday of reggae icon Bob Marley. The assault, in which a guitar was stolen, took place as the musicians made their way to the venue from a nearby metro station. Mikhail Klimov, another reggae musician attacked in a separate incident the same evening told police that the boneheads shouted "Death to blacks!" and "Sieg Heil!" while attacking him. Many Russian nazis regard ethnic Russian rap and reggae fans as "race traitors". Police arrested eight of the skinheads but so far have brought no charges.

From Mara Vladimirova for Antifa-Net in Moscow

Searchlight - April 2006

The Movement against Illegal Immigration – a fascist growth area
The Movement against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), Russia's fastest growing urban racist organisation, was founded in July 2002 after conflicts broke out between local citizens and immigrants in the suburbs of Moscow. In one such incident, in the town of Krasnoarmeisk, near Moscow, a mob even launched an anti-Armenian pogrom in the aftermath of a pub row between a Russian and an Armenian.

The DPNI, however, only shot to prominence in media terms following nationalist marches in Moscow and St. Petersburg on 4 November 2005. In an interview, Jaroslav Tamanstev, one of the DPNI's leaders, later claimed that the initiative for the demonstrations came from the youth organization Nashi (Ours), which plays the role of "official anti-fascists" and is sponsored by the Kremlin, and from the right-wing Eurasian Union, which holds strong anti-American views. This unholy alliance of organizations, it appears, got permission from the Moscow city authorities and even a financial handout from the Kremlin.
Tamanstev went on to say that the DPNI simply used the occasion to grab some publicity but was not able put out its real slogans as "Russia for Russians!" and "Chechens, go home! The war is finished"
This, of course, was a pack of lies because the correspondent from the anti-fascist SOVA research center photographed the DPNI with such slogans as "Russia for Russians!" Tamanstev also declared that his odious outfit spent $ 5,000 for a PA system, banners, uniform etc. but added that this money did not come from the Kremlin but from private donations.
The DPNI is led by a group of leaders, the most well-known of whom is Alexander Belov. According to these leaders, the DPNI exists in thirty Russian cities with offshoots in some other countries like the Ukraine, the USA and Australia. They also claim to have contacts with similar organisations abroad.
In Russia, the movement has actively developed contacts not only with parliamentary parties like Rodina (Motherland) and Vladimir Zhirinovski's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, but also with Sergei Baburin's Narodnaya Volya (People's Will). Although the DPNI's leaders have been unable to establish much dialogue with Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party (NBP), some NBP members and supporters have switched loyalty to the DPNI. It should also be noted that the virulently antisemitic organisation Pamyat (Memory) always participates in DPNI events, together with several other national-patriotic organisations.
After its 4 November success, the DPNI stepped into the media limelight when Belov gave 50,000 roubles (about £1,000) to a young Russian woman, Alexandra Ivannikova, as a "reward" for the accidental killing of an Armenian taxi driver in Moscow. Ivannikova had been accused of murder but was later released after a judge concluded that she had acted in self-defense against a man who intended to rape her.
In general, the DPNI comes out of the woodwork after criminal cases or in property quarrels and tries to put issues in an ethnic light even when there are no such grounds. An example of this was its treatment of the tragic murder of Kursheda Sultanova, a nine- year-old Tajik girl in St. Petersburg, phantasising that the youngster was killed by "teenagers whose parents were in the police and who were paid off by the Tajik mafia" with whom Kursheda's father had supposedly quarreled. The brutal murder of anti-fascist musician Timur Kacharava in St. Petersburg last November was likewise fictitiously explained away as the result of a feud between alcohol-fuelled youth gangs.
In its programme, the DPNI urges the creation of militant vigilante-style groups to help the police in their crackdowns on illegal immigrants. But whom do they call "illegal immigrants"? Literally, illegal immigrants are those who came to a country from other countries without legal permission but the DPNI racists also talk about recognised citizens of the Russian Federation who supposedly "rob and oppress Russians" and other indigenous Russian. In particular, they target Chechens and some other minorities from the north Caucasus, which is actually a part of Russian Federation.
Tajiks and Chinese are also not welcome in the upside-down world of the DPNI. In Moscow, where Tajiks are very numerous in because of a city council agreement with the government of Tajikistan that Tajiks be invited to the capital to work, on very low pay, as cleaners, the DPNI has a constant focal point for its propaganda, warning that "Tajiks are, first of all, drug dealers".
The movement's programme is clearly influenced by the anti-immigration politics of Western racist and right-wing populist parties. As a result, the DPNI calls for the opening of remand centres for immigrants, for a law to repatriate immigrants, quotas for jobs and the seizure of property belonging to illegal immigrants.
The fact that there are problems of non-controlled migration from poor Asian countries to Russia (and that the state is not very efficient in producing humane policies to deal with it) makes it easy for the lying propaganda of the DPNI and other nationalist parties to find its way into people's minds.
In the long-term economic crisis that has replaced Soviet "stability", factory workers and those working in the state service sector have found themselves on the street or very low paid in comparison with their previous earnings and status and also without any chance to start their own business.
These sections of the population, hardest-hit by social change, look on jealously as some of those who have came to Moscow or St. Petersburg from the distant provinces (even worse "from the "mountains") and who have worked hard to set up their own enterprises and prosper without having had the benefit of higher education.
Belov claims that Russia annually loses the $3.5 billion which is paid to immigrants and which supposedly leaves country. Nobody knows where his statistics come and he has never provided a source. Together with its use of plainly invented "facts and figures:" the DPNI and other anti-immigrant organizations work overtime to cast immigrants in a criminal light. Their arguments do not stand up to economic and social realities. Even the Putin government has published well-researched statistics indicating that Russia will need more immigrants, at least until 2008, mostly for the selfsame heavy and dirty jobs that Russians themselves reject.

Mara Vladimirova for Antifa-Net in Moscow

Human Rights Watch condems violence against homosexuals in Russia

Russia: Investigate Attacks on Gay Pride March
Freedoms of Assembly and Expression Must Be Protected

(Moscow, June 2, 2006) – Russian authorities must launch a full investigation into the violent attacks on peaceful gay pride activists in Moscow on May 27 and prosecute those responsible, Human Rights Watch said today. The investigation must also encompass the police response to the attacks. Human Rights Watch called on the authorities to drop charges against participants in pride events for taking part in "an unsanctioned demonstration."

Human Rights Watch documented the violence in a briefing paper released today, and called on Russian officials to fulfill their obligation to protect human rights by refraining from homophobic rhetoric and ensuring that freedoms of expression and assembly are upheld. "Victims of prejudice and violence deserve full justice," said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, who witnessed the events in Moscow first-hand. "The authorities in Moscow have endorsed discrimination and fostered an environment that allowed hatred to rise. Now they must investigate these attacks, and ensure that civil liberties and personal security are not hostage to homophobia." On May 27, several dozen Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, accompanied by Russian and foreign supporters, sought to hold two successive protest rallies, one to lay flowers on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin Wall, and the second a vigil at City Hall in support of freedoms of assembly and expression. Organizers of Moscow's lesbian and gay pride festival decided to hold these events after a court upheld Mayor Yuri Luzkhov's ban on a pride march planned for that day.
At the sites of both events, hundreds of anti-gay protesters, including skinheads, nationalists, and Orthodox followers, attacked the participants, beating and kicking many, while throwing projectiles and chanting, "Russia free of faggots! Death to sodomites!"
Skinheads punched Volker Beck, a gay member of the German parliament, and struck him with a rock, injuring his eye. Police briefly detained Beck. Others detained included parade organizers Nikolai Alexeyev and Yevgenia Debrianskaia. "At both sites police at first seemed to allow the skinheads and others free rein to assault lesbians and gays," said Long. "When police finally intervened, they forced the two groups closer together, aggravating the violence. They failed totally to protect people peacefully trying to exercise their rights." On May 18, Luzhkov formally banned a proposed pride parade. Days before the planned event, he stated: "If any one has any deviations from normal principles in organizing one's sexual life, those deviations should not be exhibited for all to see." "Instead of leading Muscovites to embrace equality, Mayor Luzhkov supported and promoted homophobia," said Long. "Given this failure of leadership, the violent ending should surprise no one."
Internal documents from the mayor's office seen by Human Rights Watch indicate the office sponsored a sustained campaign against measures in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons. In one document, dated March 2006, Luzhkov advised subordinates that: "It is necessary to take concrete measures to prevent holding public and mass gay events in the capital." He instructed them to: "Organize an active campaign in the mass media... using appeals from citizens and religious and public organizations."
In another March memorandum, deputy mayor Liudmila Shvetsova told the mayor, "A law can be promulgated to limit the rights or freedoms of [gay or lesbian] people." She urged that "the competent executive bodies... identify concrete measures for banning any actions, including public ones, involving propaganda and holding gay festivals or gay parades."
Several people in addition to Volker Beck were brutally beaten by anti-gay extremists on May 27. Pierre Serne, a French activist, was physically attacked twice and suffered injuries to his eye, shoulders, back, arm, and leg. Kurt Krickler, an Austrian activist, was beaten by skinheads on the street.
At least six lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activists and their supporters were arrested and charged with organizing or participating in an "unsanctioned demonstration." All are believed to have been freed the same evening and may face fines for their alleged offences. Several dozen anti-gay protestors were also detained and later released, most also facing similar charges relating to participation in unsanctioned demonstrations.

To read the briefing paper, "Pride and Violence: A Chronicle of the Events of May 27, 2006 in Moscow", please visit:

Short news Russia juni 2006

"Seven men who identified themselves as police officers attacked and robbed a group of ten Tajik students in a dormitory room last week, sparking new fears about the safety of dark-skinned students in Russia," "The Moscow Times" reported on June 9. Five students at the State Management University in Moscow were hospitalized with cuts and bruises, and the dormitory has been put under high security. As we go to press, two police officers have been arrested in connection with the attack.According to the Tajik Embassy, at least ten students had gathered in the room to eat dinner together and the assailants stole money and cell phones from several students.
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, 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.
Students milling around outside the dormitory the day after the incident 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. However, investigators have been treating the incident as a standard robbery and assault.
Sergei Komkov, head of the All-Russia Education Foundation, said the students had recognized one attacker as a beat police 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 to seek revenge. He said two attackers had worn police uniform pants.
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," he said. "But it's shocking that a group of policemen could break into a dormitory and attack them with such impudence." He said that the embassy was extremely concerned about the incident and the safety of the more than 2,000 Tajik students enrolled in Moscow schools.

Police in Moscow used dogs to attack Tajik migrants, according to an article in the Tajik newspaper "Aziya Plus" summarized by the Regnum news agency on May 28. The incident took place on May 23 near the Yaroslavsky highway at a market place known as the Tajik Migrant Market. Two police cars drove up to the market place and officers rounded up some of the 200 migrant market traders. Then police set their dogs loose on the migrants, one of whom received serious injuries to his arms and legs. Because of his illegal status in the country, the victim was refused medical care at a local hospital.

A racist movement organized by a former Pamyat activist held a rally in St. Petersburg on June 3, according to a June 5 report in the national daily "Kommersant." Members of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration shouted neo-Nazi slogans such as "A Russian order for Russia!" while giving the Nazi salute. Speakers reportedly accused migrants of "coming here to rape and kill" Russians. The movement's leader Aleksandr Belov was quoted as saying that neo-Nazis will soon take over the country and ended by shouting: "A Russian order for Russia! Deport them all!"

A court in Kirov handed down suspended sentences to six skinheads who participated in a mob attack on anti-fascist rock fans, according to a May 29 report by the Russian news web site In March 2005, about 80 local neo-Nazis and several skinheads from other cities converged on a music hall where an anti-fascist concert was taking place. The neo-Nazis attacked the gathering, beating up fans and sending one of the musicians to the hospital with a concussion and a broken nose.

Holiday Weekend Attacks

News from SOVA-Center

Russian rightwing radicals celebrated June 12, 2006, an official holiday known as Russia Day, with a number of attacks and meetings in different Russian regions. In Moscow, six skinheads crashed a cultural event organized by the Azeri community in Lyublinsky Park, shouting Nazi slogans, defiling the Azerbaijani flag, and provoking a fight with the Azeris, injuring at least three. The instigators were detained by the police, but were sentenced only to administrative fines.

A group of young antifascists was attacked on June 12 in Oryol. At around 11 pm, as they walked home from a concert, they were attacked by approximately 20 skinheads, who knocked them to the ground and began beating them. At least five people, including one young woman, were seriously injured. As they learned at the hospital, another young man had asked for medical help that day after a skinhead assault.
On the night of June 13, in Kaliningrad, Central Asian migrant laborers were attacked at their dormitories by drunk employees of a major local security firm, who beat and robbed the seasonal workers. The perpetrators were detained several hours after the break-in; as a result, at least 10 people were seriously injured in the attack. One of the detained security firm employees gave the following reason for his actions: "Our guys were murdered in Chechnya, now we have to revenge on all the blacks". ("Black" is a common slur used for ethnic non-Russians with dark skin).

AP 22.06.2006

St. Petersburg struggles to dispel image

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - Yunus Sultonov grimly pointed to the three places in a drab St. Petersburg courtyard where he was held down and beaten by youths shouting ethnic slurs, his nephew hid under a car and his 8- year-old daughter was stabbed 11 times.
His daughter, Khursheda, who minutes earlier had been sledding happily on a snow-covered hill in a nearby park, was carried into the first-floor apartment where the family lived in the corner of the yard and laid on a bed. "She took two breaths, and that was it," Sultonov said.
The ethnic Tajik girl's February 2004 killing has become emblematic of a wave of hate crimes giving a dark new image to the city founded by Peter the Great as Russia's gateway to the world: a hotbed of the country's rising xenophobia and racism.
Since Khursheda's death, there have been several suspected hate killings in St. Petersburg. A Senegalese student was shot in April, possibly with a hunting rifle marked with a swastika found near the site of the killing. A Syrian student was pushed in front of a subway train by attackers who shouted "Russia!", according to witnesses cited in media reports. Numerous foreigners and dark-skinned immigrants have been beaten.
With President Vladimir Putin hosting a summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations here next month, authorities plugging St. Petersburg as an open foreign investment hub are scrambling to dispel the impression that the imperial-era capital epitomizes the other Russia: a closed, backward country where outsiders and minorities are under threat.
"St. Petersburg has always been a very tolerant city," St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko told a group of foreign journalists ahead of the July 15-17 summit. Matviyenko touted the arrests last month of a group of alleged extremists who are suspected in several slayings, including those of the Senegalese student, Lamzar Samba, and Nikolai Girenko, a prominent expert on skinheads killed by a rifle shot through his closed apartment door in 2004. Many believed his killing was retaliation for his studies of neo-Nazi and racist groups and testimony in trials.
Eleven suspected members of the group, known as the Mad Crowd, are in custody, eight of them charged so far with banditry, according to the city prosecutor's office. A suspected leader was shot dead by police while allegedly resisting arrest. Matviyenko said there were no other extremist groups of a similar stature in the city, and suggested Mad Crowd was a major part of a problem blown out of proportion. "There is no xenophobic mood in the city," she said.
Independent experts agree that the arrests mark a victory for law enforcement, but caution that they will not root out hate crimes, let alone hate. Sultonov, one of tens of thousands of Tajiks living in St. Petersburg, pointed to underlying discrimination as the reason for the outcome of the trial of eight youths charged in the attack on his family. A jury in March convicted them of hooliganism but cleared the single suspect charged with killing his daughter on the charge of bias murder. "They felt sorry for their own, for these young Russians," he said of the jury.
Last month's arrests added a new twist to the case: prosecutors believe the Mad Crowd group may also have been involved in Khursheda's killing, raising questions about the trial. A spokeswoman for the city prosecutor, Yelena Ordynskaya, said authorities believe there were other attackers in addition to the eight people tried.
Others suspect the ruling reflects incompetence among prosecutors used to a Soviet system in which guilt was all but presumed, saying they may have tried the wrong people. Either way, the lack of a murder and bias conviction angered minority groups and human rights activists, who said it pointed to a society that refuses to acknowledge ethnic extremism as a problem.
Some accuse Russian authorities of trying to use widespread racism and the existence of extreme nationalist groups as a political tool, presenting themselves as the only ones capable of allowing neither minorities nor extremists to wield too much power.
"In elections, they say, 'If you don't elect us, (extremists) will take power,'" said Yuri Vdovin, deputy chairman of Citizens' Watch, a St. Petersburg human rights group, "and with a very difficult socio-economic situation in the country - there is poverty, standards of living are low - to channel people's anger by saying Azerbaijanis, Chechens or Jews or whoever are to blame."
Andrei Konstantinov, head of the Agency of Journalistic Investigations, a St. Petersburg media organization that closely follows crime, said that the problem of hate groups has worsened in the past several years, but authorities have tried to shrug it off, believing it impossible in a city that withstood a deadly Nazi blockade in World War II. "That someone in this city would shout 'Heil Hitler!" just seemed so wild," he said.
Konstantinov said there are some 1,500 active ethnic extremists in the city of 4.6 million, most of them youths in groups of 20-30. Many are neo-Nazis who adulate Hitler, celebrating his birthday and using numbers coded to letters of the alphabet - such as 88 for HH, or Heil Hitler - in their titles. Vdovin said extremism in St. Petersburg threatens to stem the influx of migrants in a city whose labor force is dwindling. But he insisted the problem is no worse here than elsewhere in the country. "I think it is equally bad all over Russia," he said.

Bigotry Monitor -- UCSJ's weekly newsletter Nr.22 vom 23.06.2006
Volume 6, Number 22 Friday, June 23, 2006
A Weekly Human Rights Newsletter on Antisemitism, Xenophobia, and Religious Persecution in the Former Communist World and Western Europe EDITOR: CHARLES FENYVESI (News and Editorial Policy within the sole discretion of the editor)
Published by UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union

As the number of race-driven killings increase, racism in Russia is attracting more attention, and pressures on the government to adopt tougher policies mount.

With violent attacks on the rise, the Russian state must do more to combat racism and xenophobia, said Doudou Diene, the UN's special rapporteur on racism, at a news conference on June 16, according to "The Moscow Times" of June 19. He said that in a report to be filed with the UN in the fall, he would urge Russia to monitor the growth of racist attacks, adhere to international standards on protecting minority rights, and encourage tolerance. Russian officials and NGOs tend to see the current situation differently, Diene said, with authorities blaming the recent spate of attacks on a handful of marginal hate groups and NGOs suggesting that Russia has a deeper, cultural problem. "In Soviet times, the state encouraged friendship between different peoples," Diene recalled. "It doesn't do that any more, and as a result, there is an ideological vacuum." Today, racism is not an official policy, he continued. But there are signs that the problem is "serious:" Political parties run on racist and xenophobic platforms; skinheads perpetrate violent crimes, with many going unpunished; and some police have been accused of attacking minorities. Diene, born in Senegal, said he was "shaken" after meeting with Africans during his weeklong stay in Moscow and St. Petersburg. "I met with people who have lived in Russia for 20, 30 years, and they're completely isolated," he said. "They're alone, frightened, and scared to go outside." Diene said that he was similarly shaken by a visit to a Gypsy settlement near St. Petersburg where people live, he said, "in horrible conditions, totally marginalized, and desperate." Asked if he had used the metro, a site of many racist attacks, Diene replied: "I would like to ride in the metro, as I do everywhere, even though I've been advised against it. But I haven't had enough time."

On June 19, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin promptly rejected the UN official's charges. Kamynin told Interfax that it is not true that people who commit ethnic crimes in Russia go unpunished. "These crimes are most definitely investigated and efforts are made to find out who committed them and to bring them to justice," he said.

Hate-crime killings are on the rise though the total number of racist attacks is down from previous years, the first drop since 2004, Galina Kozhevnikova of the Sova Information-Analytical Center said at a Moscow news conference on June 20. From March through April this year, 87 people were attacked and 14 of them died, she revealed. By comparison, in the spring of 2005 the center had tracked 122 attacks resulting in five deaths. However, she cautioned, the attacks have grown more violent and the explanation may be that "right-wing radicals are trying to attract the attention of the public and the media." According to Sova's statistics, Kozhevnikova continued, Slavic supremacists have failed to capitalize on their success since their big march in November 2005. This year, their events have been sparsely attended. But extremists have recently gained support by rallying against gays, Kozhevnikova said. Extremists rallied against two nightclubs holding events in April and May for gays and a gay rights march in May. The march in central Moscow was shut down after skinheads and ultranationalists attracted large crowds to protest it. "It's a very disturbing phenomenon," Kozhevnikova said. "Homophobia bridged different groups -- Orthodox Christian fundamentalists and skinheads -- whereas before, that had been impossible." The Sova report noted that Russian prosecutors were increasingly pressing hate-crime charges. Previously, authorities refused to recognize the element of race in crimes, the report said. On the other hand, a growing number of people convicted of hate crimes are receiving suspended sentences, Kozhevnikova said, thus encouraging perpetrators to think that they are above the law.

Members of Russia's Public Chamber, an advisory body created by President Vladimir Putin, has called for new legislation that will refuse or withdraw the registration of political parties or candidates for elective office on the basis of "indications of extremism," "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" reported on June 19. Some 27 Public Chamber members signed an appeal aimed at improving the laws countering extremism. The appeal identified "manifestations of extremism and xenophobia and the growth of racist and other violence motivated by hatred between groups" as one of Russian society's most important problems. "The Public Chamber notes that extremism in any of its manifestations, and first and foremost in the form of open violence, constitutes a global threat to international stability," the appeal stated. "Ethnic separatist conflicts and discrimination against minorities, aggression between people of different cultures and faiths or between political movements and, in general, ideologies, acts of racial violence, and so forth are actually manifestations of extremism and, basically, human intolerance. Intolerance is the enemy of ethnic and religious diversity, which is a most important factor in Russia's historical development. Intolerance undermines the principles of democracy and leads to human rights violations and a threat to the stable coexistence of Russia's community." The appeal pointed out that "for Russia, as a country that made a decisive contribution to the routing of fascism in World War II, any manifestations of neo-fascist ideology, dissemination of Nazi symbols and literature, and propagandization of extremism and hatred are totally unacceptable! At the same time, the loopholes that exist in legislation make possible the public activities (including in the media and the World Wide Web) of people who may not call directly for extremist activity, but incite it or allow the possibility of committing extremist acts."

Russian rightwing radicals celebrated June 12, an official holiday known as Russia Day, with a number of attacks and meetings in various Russian regions, Sova Information-Analytical Center reported. In Moscow, six skinheads crashed a cultural event organized by the Azeri community in Lyublinsky Park, shouting Nazi slogans, defiling the Azerbaijani flag, and provoking a fight with Azeris, injuring at least three. Police detained the instigators but imposed only "administrative fines." A group of young anti-fascists was attacked on June 12 in Oryol. At about 11 pm, as they walked home from a concert, they were assaulted by about 20 skinheads who knocked them to the ground and beat them. At least five people, including one young woman, were seriously injured. On the night of June 13, in Kaliningrad, Central Asian migrant laborers were attacked at their dormitories by drunk employees of a major local security firm, who beat and robbed the seasonal workers. The perpetrators were detained several hours after the break-in; as a result, at least 10 people were seriously injured in the attack. One of the detained security firm employees gave the following reason for his actions: "Our guys were murdered in Chechnya, now we have to revenge on all the blacks." ("Black" is a common slur used for ethnic non-Russians with dark skin.)

A Russian man who stormed into a synagogue in January and attempted to attack worshippers was found mentally unfit to stand trial, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported. On June 9, a court in Rostov-on-Don ruled that Vadim Domnitsky undergo psychiatric treatment. He was facing hooliganism charges for his attempted attack. Security personnel pushed him to the ground before he could act upon his threats to kill worshipers.

On June 20, Russia's Supreme Court overturned the conviction of another Russian who attacked synagogue worshipers in Moscow and ordered a new trial by a different court, Itar-Tass reported. On March 27, Alexander Koptsev, who wounded nine people in the Synagogue in Bolshaya Bronnaya Street, was found guilty by the Moscow City Court of attempted murder of two or more persons, motivated by ethnic hate. The court sentenced him to 13 years and ordered compulsory psychiatric treatment. The appeals to overturn the verdict had been lodged by the lawyers of Koptsev as well as the injured parties. The former asked to mitigate the punishment, arguing that it was too harsh. "The motivation for lodging the appeal, in particular, was Koptsev's mental illness and the fact that none of the victims died or became disabled," Koptsev's lawyer Vladimir Kirsanov argued.
The lawyers of the injured parties also asked to overturn the verdict, insisting that it is illegal and ungrounded. "We regard it as unfounded that Article 282 of Russia's Criminal Code [inciting of ethnic hate] has been taken out of the verdict -- it is basic and should be viewed as the prevailing qualification sign of the crime," lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant said. "Our client did not induce anyone to incite ethnic hate," the lawyer said. The defense also cited the defendant's poor health: "Koptsev's eyesight is worsening, and in ten year he'll quit prison a disabled person, blind." Prosecutors said Article 282 was mistakenly taken out from the court's ruling. But the prosecutor called the punishment "commensurate to the crime committed."

Three young men have been sentenced to prison for an October 2005 attack on a relative of the ambassador to Russia from the Republic of the Congo, according to a June 16 report by the daily newspaper "Moskovsky Komsomolets." The three were given two years in prison for robbery. The Congolese student was traveling home late from class on a trolley when the men approached him and insulted him. They screamed that there should be no black people in Russia. The student fled the trolley, but was followed by the men, who beat him and robbed him of his cell phone. A police car passed by and the three attackers were arrested. The article did not indicate if hate crimes statutes were applied in the case.

Three youths shouting racist slogans beat a Zimbabwean student in Rostov, according to a June 19 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. On June 17, the student was waiting at a bus stop when he was assaulted. A passing police car spotted the youths and quickly rounded them up. The student sustained light injuries. There was no indication about what charges, if any, will be brought against the alleged attackers.

A series of insults between Russian and Roma (Gypsy) children may have motivated a shooting incident in the Yaroslavl region, according to a June 20 report by the Regnum news agency. On June 18, an ethnic Russian man fired six or seven shots into the home of a Roma family, severely injuring a man and lightly wounding a woman. According to the police, the shooter was drunk and he is charged with "hooliganism." Regnum added that ethnic tensions at a school in the village of Karmanovsky might have motivated the shooting.

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