Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Russians run immigrants out of town in racial violence

James Kilner:

Dozens of wrecked market stalls rot in the rain and a restaurant stands burned and looted, its windows boarded up.

This is the scene of Russia's latest explosion of race violence in which, for the first time, an alliance of locals and Moscow-based extremists appears to have driven almost an entire ethnic group from a town.

Three dark-skinned men from the Caucasus region interviewed by Reuters in Kondopoga, near the Finnish border, said there had been 150 migrants in the town before the violence. Fewer than two dozen remain.

"If things don't improve, we'll have to leave too. And we don't think they'll get any better," one of the men said, talking in a lowered voice and glancing nervously around the empty market. "This is unique," Maria Lipman, a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center said. "Disturbingly, this is what the people of Kondopoga were demanding, that the Caucasians be hounded out of town."

Since the collapse of communism in 1991 already simmering racist attitudes have grown in Russia, partly aggravated by Chechen separatist attacks that have fanned suspicion of people who do not look Russian.

Trouble started in Kondopoga, a town of 40,000 in the Russian province of Karelia, after a bar fight over an unpaid bill between locals and Chechens. Two Russians were killed.

In Russian city, a rampage of ethnic violence

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