Saturday, 22 May 2010

Violent racism plagues public transport

According to information released this week , two knife attacks against foreigners – one a citizen of Tajikistan, another a native of Mongolia – have been attributed to ultra-right nationalists. The attacks occurred on May 12, on Stankolit railway station, and while both attackers have since been caught, racist violence continues to remain a problem on public transportation.
The attackers have been identified as two Muscovites, aged 16 and 19.
A police official said that a search of their homes yielded literature targeting “beginner skinheads” and baseball bats decorated with swastikas.
“What often happens on public transport is that skinheads perform an operation called ‘white wagon’,” Maria Rozalskaya, a representative of Sova, a monitoring organization that combats racism told The Moscow News. “They pick off people who don’t look white enough to them. But the attackers don’t represent a monolithic organization, which is why their actions can be hard to predict. Sometimes, it’s just a few people who meet up on the Internet and say to one another, ‘Hey, let’s go beat up some foreigners’.”
Rozalskaya suggested that although incidents of such violence are still commonplace, Moscow police have stepped up their efforts in fighting them. “The police are definitely paying more attention to racist violence in Moscow,” she said. “Sometimes, they can’t qualify an obvious incident as a hate crime right away, due to procedural policy, but they definitely don’t ignore the issue. There has been a positive trend as far as police action is concerned.”
“We recommend that potential victims avoid using public transportation alone, after dark, especially around football stadiums,” Rozalskaya went on to say. “The presence of the police is a deterrent, so on a public holiday when lots of officers are about, you are statistically safer.”
A Central Asian businessman who agreed to speak to The Moscow News on the basis of anonymity said that he had once encountered skinheads on a metro train late at night. “They were studying me closely, pointing their fingers and laughing, enjoying my discomfort. Based on their appearance, I could tell who they were,” he said. “I had to make a split-second decision, and stepped back onto the platform in a hurry. The doors closed before they could follow. Better safe than sorry.”

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