|08MOSCOW703||2008-03-13 16:01:00||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Moscow|
VZCZCXRO4115 PP RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG DE RUEHMO #0703/01 0731601 ZNR UUUUU ZZH P 131601Z MAR 08 FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7119 INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000703
1. (SBU) Summary: A string of deadly hate crimes committed
since the beginning of the year has alarmed NGOs and
compelled Putin to speak out against xenophobia and
nationalism. If the rate of fatalities resulting from hate
crimes continues through the end of the year, the total
number will be twice that reported in 2007. NGOs which track
nationalism and xenophobia called remarks by Putin
windowdressing. At the same time, the main NGO which tracks
hate crimes notes improvements in Moscow. End summary.
NEW YEAR GETS OFF TO A BAD START
2. (U) Since the beginning of 2008, 17 people have been
killed and more than 50 injured in hate-related attacks in
Russia, according to the Sova Center, which tracks
hate-motivated crimes. If the rate of fatal hate crimes were
to continue through the end of the year, the result would be
a total of 135 xenophobic killings -- double the number
reported in 2007 (reftel). This alarming trend and the
extremely violent nature of the crimes committed have caused
GOR officials, including Putin and Moscow Mayor Yuriy
Luzhkov, to speak out.
3. (U) The Moscow Prosecutor's Office has recorded 16 crimes
committed on ethnic grounds since January 1. Nearly all of
them were committed by groups of youth, aged 12 to 19 years,
who attacked their victims from behind with knives. While
acknowledging a problem, Vladimir Pronin, head of the
Department of Internal Affairs for the City of Moscow,
insisted in news reports that there is no organized network
of skinheads in Moscow. He said there are only separate
groups that communicate through the Internet. The victims
were predominantly from CIS countries, with many coming from
4. (U) Some incidents in Moscow include the following:
-On January 16, a young person from Kyrgyzstan died in a
Moscow park as the result of 23 knife wounds.
-On January 17, a young person from Kyrgyzstan was attacked
in the Moscow region and suffered 36 knife wounds.
-On January 29, a young man and woman from Kyrgyzstan were
attacked in Moscow by three people who were subsequently
arrested. The young man died from knife wounds. The young
woman survived and was hospitalized with 9 knife wounds.
-On January 31, an ethnic Tajik with Uzbek citizenship was
attacked by two assailants in the center of Moscow. He
received 12 knife wounds.
-On February 6, the body of a 30-year old from Kyrgyzstan was
found in Moscow with 30 knife wounds.
-On February 12, the corpse of a 20-year old native of
Kabardino-Balkariya was found in a garage in Moscow with
numerous knife wounds.
-On February 14, two Tajik citizens were attacked in the
center of Moscow by five teenagers with knives. One of the
5. (SBU) Sova Center's Galina Kozhevnikova told us the
reason for the high number of attacks against people from
Kyrgyzstan is not that they are being specifically targeted.
"These are the people in Moscow who generally work cleaning
streets and courtyards and they usually work alone. This
makes them easy targets for skinheads," she said.
SPEAKING OUT BUT DOING LITTLE
6. (U) Speaking at the opening of an informal summit of
leaders of CIS countries on February 22, Putin declared that
Russia is prepared to fight xenophobia, intolerance and
threats to citizens from CIS countries. "We will do
everything to make sure these criminals are found, tried and
punished," Putin said. "Citizens in the CIS, including
Russians, are now encountering a resurgence of xenophobia,
intolerance and even threats to their lives," Putin said and
acknowledged that nearly all CIS presidents had raised the
issue with him. Days earlier, Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov met
with militia leaders to discuss the problem. Ella Pamfilova,
Chair of the President's Council for Civil Society and Human
Rights, said there is "political will to solve this problem,"
given the attention it has received.
MOSCOW 00000703 002 OF 002
7. (SBU) Others saw the government's response as wholly
inadequate. Kozhevnikova dismissed Putin's remarks as
"merely a public display of government action," and said
there are no real efforts taking place to address xenophobia.
"Putin and Mayor Luzhkov only pay attention when hate crimes
occur in the center of Moscow. All other incidents are
essentially ignored." Aleksandr Verkhovskiy, also of the
Sova Center, said earlier this year that the Russian
government is "first and foremost concerned with stability
and xenophobia and hate crimes are not perceived by leaders
in the Kremlin as a threat." William Smirnov, also of the
President's Council for Civil Society and Human Rights,
accused the Kremlin of encouraging tension among those who
are not doing well economically and channeling their energy
against various ethnic groups who make easy targets. Valeriy
Tishkov, Director of the Institute of Ethnology of the
Russian Academy of Sciences and a member of the Public
Chamber has said increased migration from former Soviet
republics has fed a perception that ethnic Russians are
targeted for attacks in the Caucasus.
SOME SUCCESS IN THE COURTROOM
8. (SBU) Kozhevnikova praised the Moscow prosecutor's office
for obtaining guilty verdicts against perpetrators of some of
these crimes. In 2008, there have been at least eight guilty
verdicts against eight people. The most high profile of
these verdicts was against Maksim Martsinkevich (alias
Tesak), the leader of the neo-nazi group "Format 18." He was
sentenced on February 18 to three years in prison for
publicly inciting hatred following an incident in a Moscow
club in which he interrupted a political debate and used
phrases which were later examined and determined to be
"extremist." Prior to his arrest for inciting hatred he was
known to have participated in numerous neo-nazi activities
including a celebration of Hitler's birthday. His three-year
sentence is the most severe to be given for a non-violent
crime related to propaganda in Russia. Kozhevnikova posited
that the unusually long sentence could be a reflection of a
desire to "unofficially" prosecute him for his other
activities. She said his sentencing will be devastating to
his followers. "When you remove the leader from the scene,
the unity of the group breaks up," she said. She added it is
not known for certain who ordered the arrest of Martsinkevich
but she speculated it came from the Presidential
9. (SBU) While the work of prosecutors is bearing fruit and
may reveal a fundamental shift in how seriously they view
these crimes, the larger question is when authorities will do
something to tackle the societal attitudes that give rise to
these violent attacks.