Russia refuses to bail two Britons held for Greenpeace protest
Follow @TIMEWorld There was no easy way for the mayor of Moscow to respond to this weekends race riots. On Sunday night, a violent mob clashed with police in the south of the city, hurling bottles, destroying property and screaming for a purge of minorities from Central Asia and the Caucasus. Their leaders claimed it was revenge for the unsolved murder last week of a Russian man at the hands of a dark-skinned migrant worker. But while Mayor Sergei Sobyanin was quick to condemn the tactics of the mob, he found it hard to distance himself from its logic. Just this summer, during the citys mayoral race, Sobyanin was the one who brought xenophobia into the political mainstream. Now he was forced to reap what hed sown. So his reaction to the violence, bizarre as it seems, was understandable on Monday morning, when he briefed President Vladimir Putin on the incident. Instead of pledging to rebuild or at least protect the vegetable warehouse that the racist mob had ransacked, Sobyanin ordered it to close down for using migrant labor. Instead of trying to calm the immigrants who were the targets of the violence, he ordered raids on street markets to arrest more than a thousand migrants at random. We are carrying out a series of inspections not only at the [damaged] warehouse but other markets in Moscow in order to establish order, the mayor told Putin. Almost as an afterthought, he mentioned that police had arrested the organizers of the riot and charged them with hooliganism. (MORE: Moscow mob lashes out against dark-skinned migrants.
Rights defence groups are keeping a close watch on the rising rate of hate crime. We spoke with the head of the Migration Policy Institute in Berlin, Olga Gulina, for her view. Natalia Marshalkovich, euronews: Murders in the streets of Moscow, whether or not immigrants are involved, are common, but this one triggered such a strong reaction; the protest almost turned into a pitched street battle; why is that? Olga Gulina, Institute on Migration Policy, Director: Of course, unfortunately, were like other countries, such as France, Sweden and Britain, where similar things have happened when it comes to problems with immigrants and this turned into a riot. Why right now? No one can answer that. But we were expecting it. For instance, in July we had the same thing in the city of Pugachev, not far from the Saratov Volga region: rioting with a lot of people involved. Now its come to Moscow. I think it will get worse because policies havent changed and conditions havent improved. Relations between local populations and immigrants are not at the level they should be. With the present case were dealing with, its clear the murder angered the local people against the weakest and least protected part of the countrys population: immigrants. euronews: Could this have been avoided? Is this explosion of anger just because of migration policy, or are there other things to factor in? Gulina: It might have been avoidable, but every action in migration policy has to be taken ten to fifteen years in advance. Thats to say that what we do today were only going to see the effect of five or ten years from now. We are seeing today in Russia the results of actions ten or fifteen years in the past.
Russia’s hatred of immigrants ‘will get worse’ until policies change
Other countries and companies are seeking to exploit Arctic energy resources and face similar concerns from environmentalists. A Finnish minister resigned on Friday over a row about a Greenpeace protest last year. Putin has said the activists were not pirates but that they had violated international law. The head of the Kremlin’s advisory body on human rights has said he would ask prosecutors to withdraw the piracy charges. Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International, has written to President Vladimir Putin asking to meet him and offering to stand as security in Russia for the release of the activists on bail. Putin’s spokesman said the letter, published in Western media on Wednesday, had not yet arrived at the Kremlin, and said it was unlikely to affect the legal process. “(Putin) probably cannot get involved in a discussion about the investigative activity that is taking place,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters. MINISTER RESIGNS Investigators have said more charges will be pressed against some protesters after drugs and other suspect items were found on the boat, the Arctic Sunrise. Greenpeace denies there were illegal items aboard. Greenpeace, whose activists tried to scale the Gazprom-owned Prirazlomnaya rig, says the protest was peaceful and calls the piracy charges absurd and unfounded. Those arrested include American, Argentinian, Australian, Brazilian, Canadian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, New Zealand, Swedish, Swiss, Polish, Turkish and Ukrainian citizens. In neighboring Finland, a government minister who had appeared sympathetic to Greenpeace in a separate Arctic protest, resigned. Heidi Hautala, minister for international development who is also in charge of overseeing state ownership of companies, was criticized by colleagues and the media for trying to dissuade state-owned shipping firm Arctia Shipping from filing a criminal complaint against the protest group. Protesters scaled an Arctia icebreaker, contracted by Shell, in Helsinki last year to demonstrate against Arctic drilling. Hautala, a member of the Green Party, said she thought a state-owned firm should seek dialogue rather than legal action.
In Russia’s Sochi, gays oppose boycott calls
Andrei Tanichev, the owner of a gay club, said his regular customers were “categorically against a boycott”. He called for athletes to express their support for gay rights in ways that Russian state television will be unable to ignore, like wearing rainbow outfits on the track. Russia cant do anything about athletes who are planning to wear rainbow T-shirts, and thats one of the reasons we dont think a boycott is needed,” Tanichev said. A file picture taken on May 25, 2013, shows a Russian gay rights activist holding a poster reading ” Vladislav Slavsky, a secondary school pupil in his late teens who has organised a gay rights protest in Sochi, said he also opposed an outright boycott of the Olympics. He thinks the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should have instead demanded that Russia cancel its controversial law on homosexuality and threaten to move the event unless Moscow complies. But IOC Coordination Commission chairman, Jean-Claude Killy, last month said the organisation had no business weighing in on laws in host countries as long as the Olympic Charter is respected. Putin in August also signed a vaguely-worded decree banning any protests in Sochi during the Olympics unless they were related to the Games. Asked by AFP last month if Russia would allow a gay rights rally, the Sochi Organising Committee head Dmitry Chernyshenko said that gay rallies could theoretically be judged as “related” to the Games, but would still require the city’s permission. “If the city authorities find it possible, then (activists) won’t have any problems,” he said. He also promised that organisers would respect all visitors and not interfere in their private lives. ‘What is there to be joyful about?’ Yet it remains uncertain if Sochi, one of European Russia’s southernmost cities and close to the traditionally conservative societies of the Caucasus mountains, is ready for gay pride events. Sochi is more homophobic than Moscow, said Slavsky.