In light of the most recent race killing in Moscow, La Russophobe reviews coverage of racial violence in Russia over the past month, reflecting back on the past two years in light of recent developments. La Russophobe dares to wonder why this information can’t be found on the JRL website. Mr. Johnson can put the government reports up by himself, and if he doesn’t like LR’s summary and doesn’t want to write his own, surely one of his thousands of readers can provide one, right? That is unless . . .
Recently two major British publications, the Sunday Times and the Economist, have run lengthy pieces focusing on the outburst of race violence in Russia. Despite this, the British Home Office is currently denying requests for asylum under the Geneva Convention from Russian nationals who fear racial persecution, claiming that there is insufficient evidence of chronic racial hostility in Russia. This paper will review these issues, as well as the content of two recent U.S. government reports on race violence in Russia.
The Sunday Times led the way on May 7th with an article by Mark Franchetti entitled “Russia’s Nazis Launch Wave of Racial Attacks.” The article noted nine race-based attacks between April 6th and April 22nd including five in Moscow and one each in St. Petersburg, Volgograd and Voronezh. The victims were Vietnamese, Senegalese, Asian, two Tajiks (one a nine year old girl) two Gypsies and an Armenian, as well as a Slavic Russian anti-fascism activist. The Times contained the following quote from: “‘We need to kill all dark-skinned immigrants,’ explained a young man renowned as one of Moscow’s most radical skinheads who introduced himself as Tesak, Russian slang for ‘hatchet’. ‘We shouldn’t just kill adults. We must get rid of their children too,’ he said. ‘When you squash cockroaches to death, you don’t just kill the big ones. You go for the little ones too.’” The article stated that Sova, an NGO, had reported only 28 race killings in Russia in all of 2005, making this one-month tally from 2006 significant. However, it also stated that “Amnesty International believes the true figure is much higher: the police play down the attacks by recording many of them as mere ‘hooliganism’.”
Four days later came a similar report from The Economist, which stated: “As a recent report by Amnesty International catalogued, police, prosecutors and courts remain too slow to recognise racist crimes and too lenient in their punishment. Typically, the killers of a nine-year-old Tajik girl in St Petersburg were recently adjudged to have been motivated by “hooliganism” rather than racism (another nine-year-old, the daughter of a Malian, was stabbed in the throat in St Petersburg, but lived). A racist attack on an official from Russia’s north Caucasus in Moscow last month was also classified as hooliganism, until officials were shamed into thinking again.” The Economist also pointed to polling data showing that a majority of Russians support racial exclusion: “At the last count, 52% of those polled by the Levada centre supported the idea of ‘Russia for the [ethnic] Russians’; large numbers confess to hostile feelings to Chechens, Roma and others.”
The Amnesty International report referenced by the Economist, which was issued May 6th, states: “According to a Russian information centre (the Sova Information Analytical Centre), in 2005 alone 28 people were murdered and 366 assaulted on racial grounds. The actual figure, however, could be much higher as many racially motivated crimes are either not reported at all or not registered as such. Rather, police and prosecution authorities frequently prefer to classify them as so-called “hooliganism”. The perpetrators of racist attacks often come from well-organized groups professing a racist, neo-fascist and violent ideology. According to official figures, there are about 150 “extremist groups” with over 5000 members in Russia, while non-governmental organizations put the membership at 50,000. At the same time, organizations and people researching and campaigning against racism face real threats to their lives.”
The Times’ data, from Sova, did not include the beating of two Mongolian students in St. Petersburg on April 15th as reported by RIA Novosti or the stabbing of an Indian student in St. Petersburg on April 20th, as reported in the Moscow News. In fact, the RIA Novosti report referenced four other incidents not included in the Times’ data, which focused only on the month of April: “a Chinese student was treated after being attacked outside her apartment block Sunday, while a nine-year-old girl of mixed Russian and African origin was hospitalized after being stabbed near her apartment building March 25. On March 24, a 34-year-old Ghanaian man was beaten up in the Kolpino suburb of St. Petersburg. Two young men have been arrested in connection with the attack, police said. Other violent attacks on non-white foreigners in St. Petersburg in recent months include an attack on a man from Mali, who was stabbed to death in February.” This brings the total number of victims in the first four months of 2006 to at least 16 or on average one per week, with half a dozen fatalities. However, as noted above, the actual number may be considerably higher to due to inaccurate attribution of incidents by the police.
On February 8, 2005, the U.S. State Department released a report reviewing Russia’s human rights record for 2004.
The report states: “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. 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. 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. 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.”
The report documented a litany of examples as follows:
· September 20 a group of up to 50 young persons beat and stabbed 4 individuals from the Caucasus region on the Moscow subway.
· 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.
· 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.
· 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.
· 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.
The full report is available here.
The State Department issued its most current report on Russia, for 2005, on March 8 of this year. That report states:
“The law prohibits discrimination based on nationality; however, Roma, persons from the Caucasus and Central Asia, and dark skinned persons and foreigners faced widespread governmental and societal discrimination, which was often reflected in official attitudes and actions (see section 1.c.). Skinhead groups and other extreme nationalist organizations fomented racially motivated violence. Muslims and Jews continued to encounter prejudice and societal discrimination, although it was often difficult to separate religious from ethnic motivations (see section 2.c). Human rights observers noted that racist propaganda and racially motivated violence are punishable by law, but despite some increases in law enforcement efforts, the law was employed infrequently. However, the authorities demonstrated an increased awareness of the problem. For example, on September 27, President Putin stated: ‘We will step up the law enforcement agencies’ work in this area and will do all we can to make sure that skinheads and fascist-minded groups are no longer a part of this country’s political landscape.’ Federal and local measures to combat crime continued to be applied disproportionately to persons appearing to be from the Caucasus and Central Asia. Police reportedly beat, harassed, and demanded bribes from persons with dark skin, or who appeared to be from the Caucasus, Central Asia, or Africa. Ethnic Azerbaijani vendors alleged that police frequently used violence against them during document checks at markets in St. Petersburg. Authorities in Moscow subjected dark‑skinned persons to far more frequent document checks than others and frequently detained them or fined them in amounts that exceeded legally permissible penalties. Police often failed to record infractions against minorities or to issue a written record to the alleged perpetrators. Law enforcement authorities also targeted such persons for deportation from urban centers. In March the Institute for War and Peace Reporting noted that police arrested illegal migrant workers from Central Asia and illegally took their money and then took the workers to the outskirts of Moscow instead of deporting them. This practice reportedly allowed the police to pocket the cost of the deportation and leave the workers in Moscow for future arrests. According to MVD statistics, 11,100 crimes were committed against foreign citizens and persons without citizenship from January to October. According to the MVD, 557 crimes against foreigners were registered in St. Petersburg during the first seven months of the year.”
Examples of race violence set forth by the report were as follows:
· On February 14, approximately 400 members of the Romani community fled the village of Iskitim, Novosibirsk Oblast, after a group of armed men attacked and burned a number of Romani houses in the village. According to NGOs, similar attacks took place in the village in January 2005 and December 2004.
· On the night of November 10 two more Romani houses in Iskitim suffered arson attacks, in which a Romani women and her child sustained injuries. The child later died from the injuries received during the attack.
·For example it was reported that on July 9, about a dozen skinheads beat a Vietnamese man to death in a Moscow park.
· On September 14, a Congolese student was killed in St. Petersburg. A year ago the same student was attacked and hospitalized, at which time he gave evidence that the attack was racially motivated.
· On October 9, in Voronezh, a Peruvian student was killed and two other students, from Spain and Peru, were badly injured when a group of youths attacked them. There had been several previous attacks on attacks on foreigners in Voronezh.
· Later in October, the authorities charged a Russian student with murder and another 13 youths with lesser crimes for participating in the attack.
· On February 11, two Korean students were attacked and hospitalized in St. Petersburg.
· On March 14, four skinheads attacked an African student of a pedagogical university in Lipetsk.
· On March 26, a Chinese student was attacked during daylight on a major city street in St. Petersburg.
· According to one report, from January to early December skinheads attacked 125 people in Moscow, and 8 of the victims died.
· There were indications that the authorities were increasingly willing to acknowledge racial, ethnic, or religious motivations for such criminal acts. For example, in St. Petersburg authorities have recently been willing to acknowledge the role of ethnic hatred in such crimes. Between January and July, 13 physical attacks were officially declared to have been motivated by racial or ethnic hatred. In all cases the attackers wore skinhead attire or proclaimed nationalist slogans.
· In September, for the first time, a Primorskiy Kray jury convicted a defendant of a crime motivated by ethnic hatred. Skinhead leader Ivan Nazarenko was found guilty of murder motivated by ethnic hatred for the killing of a Korean man in September 2004 and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment. The same jury acquitted Nazarenko of the 2004 murder of a Chinese citizen.
·In August five skinheads were convicted of murdering migrants in Surgut, Khanty‑Mansiysk Okrug. Two of the teenage defendants were sentenced to 9 years, the rest to 8 1/2 years for murdering an Azeri and four Tajiks in separate incidents December 2003 and September 2004. The skinheads reportedly attacked and beat to death or stabbed people of a non-Slavic appearance on the streets with the aim of “cleansing the city.” They allegedly confessed to the killings during the investigation but withdrew their confessions in court.
· Also in August three skinheads were sentenced to one year imprisonment for assaulting ethnic Yakuts in Yekaterinburg. According to media reports, this was the first conviction for a hate crime in Sverdlovsk Oblast. In St. Petersburg, the trials of eight young men accused of attacking a Tajik family of three in 2004 continued, stabbing a 9-year-old Tajik girl to death. Only one of the men alleged to have been involved was being tried for murder.
·In June 2004 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. Shortly after his killing, a previously unknown organization, “Russian Republic,” pronounced a death sentence on Girenko on its website and announced that the sentence had been carried out.
· In March Pavel Ivanov resumed publication of The Russkoye Veche, a Velikiy Novgorod newspaper that printed articles hostile to minorities. Ivanov had been charged in 2002 with inflaming ethnic hatred and in February 2004 the court found him guilty and banned him from publishing for three years. Ivanov appealed the ruling and the ban was replaced with a $350 (10 thousand rubles) fine.
The 2005 State Department report is here:
Despite this evidence of racial hostility in Russia, on November 8, 2005, the British Home Office refused an asylum request based on the petitioner’s fear of racial retribution in Russia. Denying the request, the Home Office Stated: “Paragraph 3.7.7 of the Russia operational guidance October 2005 states ‘In March 2005 President Putin publicly stated that the government would focus on the fight against xenopobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of extremism. The government has established a 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.’ According to a BBC News Article about racial discrimination in Russia (10 October 2005) ‘Russian President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged the serious ness of the problem. In a televised question and answer session last month he apologised to foreigners who have been attacked and promised to end racist activities in Russia.’ It is considered that the authorities are focused on stopping discrimination and extremism in Russia. It is considered that you could seek the protection of the authorities in Russia if you had any problems. It is further considered that you could also move to a different area of Russia if you had any problem on your return.”
The Report referred to by the Home Office is to be found here.