On this day, in memory of the antifascists Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, human rights activists oppose the increasing threat of fascism and the inadequate response of authorities towards protests.
Two years ago the lawyer Stanislav Markelov and the journalist Anastasia Baburova were killed in Moscow. January 19th – the day of their murder – has become a memorial day, a day of antifascist actions and protests against all forms of racism and discrimination.
The slogan “To remember means to fight” unites all those who realize the threat of nationalist hysteria, who value every single person regardless of their ethnicity, who are ready to protect society from fascism.
Last year, antifascists were denied the right to organise a demonstration in Moscow. The right to a legal demonstration on the 19th of January was denied in the courts as well. The official reason for the denial was that the city and district authorities do not accept any requests for demonstrations during the long holidays from 31st of December till 11th of January (it was either “too early” before the holidays so that the permission would expire, or “too late” after the holidays to have the petition approved in time). Because the antifascists and human rights activists could not organise legal demonstrations in memory of Markelov and Baburova, many of them were arrested by the police. This year the demonstration was not sanctioned in St Petersburg due to the same reasons. We were told again that requests submitted on December 30, 2010 cannot be processed as they were submitted too early. We tried to apply on the 31st of December but were told that “We don’t accept any requests today”; however, as it turned out later, on the very same day the nationalists applied for a demonstration “against ethnic criminality” in the same district of St Petersburg. Though a demonstration “against ethnic criminality,” they were granted permission to hold an event, which would obviously develop interethnic disorder and conflicts.
Over the last few months, this issue has become especially important considering the increasing frequency of attacks of aggressive nationalist groups, such the mass unrest in December 2010 at the Manezhnaya square in Moscow and Zagorodny prospect in St Petersburg. The victims of these attacks were representatives of ethnic minorities and people in the street who were unaware of the spontaneous actions of the fascists.
On the 11th of December 2010, a Tajik worker, Firdavs Yusupov, was attacked in St Petersburg. He was surrounded by four neo-Nazis (recognisable from their appearance -high black boots with white laces, identifying clothes and haircuts). They insulted him, started beating him with brass knuckles and stabbing him with knives. Firdavs managed to call his brothers for help who ran to him and saved his life. “He would have died of blood loss had his brothers not brought him to the hospital”, the doctor said after examination. The police and investigators arrived at the scene where they arrested the brothers of Firdavs. Later his elder brother Farrudin, who was not in the park but arrived at the hospital, was arrested as well. According to the arrested brothers, all of them were beaten and forced to admit that they were first to attack the Russian guys in the park. The younger brother Furkat was accused of assaulting one of Firdays’ attackers (“the aggrieved” Udaltsov was also brought to the hospital with knife wound).
The investigators ignored the fact that the attack on Firdays took place only hours before a neo-Nazi demonstration on the 11th of December. This mass demonstration included attacks on “non Russians as police idly stood by. They also ignored the fact that the attack took place in the Tavrichesky garden where racist graffiti was found on the buildings nor did they take into account that some of attackers were charged with hate crimes.
One month after the attack, Firdavs Yusupov is still not recognized as the victim of a hate crime. Although he received severe wounds (the doctors had to suture the wounds on his eye, back and chest; his kidney was contused, his nose broken, and he withstood a concussion), legal action has not yet been brought!
Such behaviour can be explained only by the unwillingness of investigators to press charges against racists, to bring them to justice; though the attackers had a motivation for the crime and opportunity to conduct it – in the beginning of the fight there were four neo-Nazis against one Tajik.
A similar event took place in the Kronshtadt district. Since the spring of 2010, nationalist fliers and anti-Caucasian publications with unsubstantiated accusations of the residents of Kronshtatd of Azerbaijani origin, have been spreading around. In May, looting in an Azerbaijani café ended up with a fight between two local Azerbaijanis and a group of 10 people from the Rus organization armed with wooden and metal sticks, some of them are reported to have had knives. The members of the Rus organization protested against the presence of the Azerbaijani ethnic minority on the island. The two Azerbaijanis were arrested, but none of those who injured them in the fight or looted the café incurred a liability for what they had done.
The lawyers of the arrested Mirzoyev and Ganbarov are sure that some charges (some added later in December 2010) are made up and have no grounds. The lawyers have strong arguments and proof that their clients were not able to commit all of crimes they are accused of.
At the same time, the media of the Kronshtadt district published ethically inadmissible articles, warning the residents of the district about the threat of people of Azerbaijani origin (regardless of the fact that many of the named residents of Kronshtadt are not charged with anything and are citizens of the Russian Federation). The local authorities organized “closed meetings” with the members of the Rus organization and actually supported the demands of the latter to increase control over ethnic minorities, offering to cooperate with those who participated in the fight against Azerbaijanis. The head of the Rus organization, Lagozhin, said that law enforcement officials suggested to them to organize volunteer public order squads, which would help the police “to keep the peace.” (BaltInfo, 08.06.10). At the meeting with the citizens of the district on the 14th of December, the prosecutor Voloshin stated that the decision of the fate of the Azerbaijanis had been already made and they would be found guilty. It means that the judicial powers support racists, legitimizing their activities, and ensuring them they would remain unpunished. It also shapes public opinion, which does not even consider that Mirzoyev and Ganbarov might not be guilty, because they are newcomers, “strangers”. This power in fact deprives people of non Russian ethnicity from the right to self-defence, which is in other words the right to life.
All powers should be mobilized to fight against this real threat – the threat of fascism which starts with racism and intolerance. Public manifestations of racism require state authorities to react effectively, as they are required to protect the constitutional rights of all citizens.
The officials of St Petersburg should publicly denounce the activities of extremist nationalist groups, to investigate effectively hate crimes committed on the 11th of December, to bring the guilty to justice, and react immediately against any public xenophobic statements of any officials.
According to the “Tolerance” program approved by the administration of St Petersburg for 2011-2016, the government must support antifascist initiatives. The attempts to criminalise ethnic minorities and to ban antifascist demonstrations, while Russian fascists are openly supported means conscious sabotage of this program by representatives of the government.