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Experts Warn of Rise in Ethnic Violence

The number of murders motivated by ethnic hatred has risen but the overall number of attacks has dropped.

Published: February 19, 2014 (Issue # 1798)



  • Experts reported that anti-migrant and anti-LGBT government policies have contributed to a rise in violent attacks.
    Photo: Ivan Sekretarev / AP

Russia has seen an increase in violence motivated by ethnic hatred and physical attacks on the LGBT community in the past year, experts said on Feb. 13.

The topic has taken on a new sense of urgency in light of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda legislation and the ongoing street protests in neighboring Ukraine, protests which are now in their third month and took a violent turn in recent weeks as nationalists began to dominate. Observers have expressed concerns that the nationalist sentiment in Kiev could bleed over into Russia.

Judging from conclusions presented in a report by analysts from the Sova Center, a think tank monitoring racism, the public’s anti-migrant sentiment will probably not lead to large-scale protests.

Although “the potential support” of the ultranationalist movement “grew considerably,” the movement itself “took a step back to existing in the form of half-legal radical cells,” the report said.

“In such a course of development, ultranationalists will hardly be able to attract a really considerable number of new supporters from xenophobically oriented Russians,” the report said.

Murder cases motivated by ethnic hatred rose from 19 in 2012 to 21 last year, but the overall number of attacks provoked by racial intolerance dropped from 210 to 199 in the same period, according to statistics contained in the report, which was paid for with a presidential grant.

The trends seen in 2013 developed against the backdrop of a falling number of prison sentences for ethnic violence and a surge in convictions for hate speech on the Internet, Vera Alperovich and Natalya Yudina, the co-authors of Sova’s 2013 report on xenophobia and radical nationalism, told some 30 journalists at a news conference on Feb. 13.

The rise in attacks stems from anti-migrant and anti-LGBT policies enacted by the country’s leadership, they said.

“In 2013, we saw an outburst of street activity,” Alperovich said.

“The majority of it was due to an artificially created situation — the fact that authorities started playing the nationalist card,” she said, referring to raids by police on markets across the country last summer and fall, as well as President Vladimir Putin’s idea in late 2012 to introduce passports for migrants from CIS and Central Asia.

The number of people injured in attacks fell from 191 in 2012 to 178 last year.

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