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 as 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 make a call to 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 flyers and anti-Caucasian publications with unsubstantiated
accusations of the residents of Kronshtadt 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.