On October 14, fresh on the heels of the racially motivated murder of a Vietnamese student in St. Petersburg, four men beat and stabbed two citizens of Uzbekistan in the suburban Moscow town of Dolgoprudny. One of the victims, identified by regional prosecutors as Ihtier Sanoev, 39, died in the hospital of his wounds. Meanwhile, two intoxicated teenagers killed a Chinese citizen in the Siberian city of Chita (Moscow Times, October 18; Interfax, October 15).
St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko said over the weekend that the October 13 murder of Vu An Tudan, a 20-year-old first-year student at St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, will be solved and the murderers punished harshly. She said she was “revolted by [this] monstrous crime” and that 99% of St. Petersburg’s residents felt the same way. Matvienko added, however, that it was first necessary to solve the crime and figure out why it was committed and only then generalize and draw conclusions about what was behind it (Rosbalt, October 16; Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 18). According to eyewitnesses, the Vietnamese student was attacked by a group of 15-18 young men with shaven heads and black clothes and boots (see EDM, October 15).
General-Lieutenant Vladimir Gordienko, head of the Interior Ministry’s Main Criminal Investigations Department, went even further than Matvienko in trying to play down speculation about the racist motivation of the attack. “I don’t think the situation should be supercharged,” Gordienko said of the attacks on the Vietnamese student and the Uzbeks. “There is no crime wave with respect to citizens of other countries.” Gordienko, in fact, insisted that citizens of Russia are more often victims of crimes committed by foreigners than the other way around and that crimes are generally not racially motivated. “The attacker does not know whom he is attacking,” he said, adding that it is only during the ensuring investigation that the issue of ethnicity comes up. “Often conflicts arise on the basis of hooliganism, to which the aggression of the attackers is connected,” Gordienko said. “They are indifferent to the nationality of the victim; if the nationality of the victim and the attacker were the same, you would still have the same results.” Russia, he insisted, is the “most ethnically tolerant country.”
Gordienko also called on the media to be “more objective” in covering such crimes, and cited the case of the nine-year-old Tajik girl who was fatally stabbed by a group of youths in St. Petersburg earlier this year. Journalists, he said, had actively covered that murder but had not given sufficient attention to the work carried out by the authorities to solve the crime.
The investigations into all of these recent attacks have been launched on the basis of the statutes in Russia’s Criminal Code covering murder or attempted murder but not those covering racially motivated attacks. The authorities have played down the possibility that the attacks were carried out by members of extremist groups, including skinheads, although they have not ruled it out (Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 18).
Grani.ru was scathing in its assessment of Gordienko’s comments, writing sarcastically that he was absolutely right to point out the “international character” of the attacks in St. Petersburg. “The criminal doesn’t know who he’s attacking,” the website wrote. “A Tajik girl, a black youth or, in the given case, a native of Vietnam. The Petersburg bandit is objective in his choice of victim. And Gen. Gordienko is ready to defend that assertion to the end. Because otherwise it would have to be admitted that Nazism is thriving in the northern capital; that here, under the noses of the general and his subordinates, wolf packs of skinheads and other monsters who pick their victims according to the color of their skin, the shape of their noses, the slant of their eyes, are roaming freely. But the general cannot admit this. He very much values the glorious name of the Petersburg militia. And there can be no doubt he will not allow any Vietnamese (Nigerian, Tajik, Uzbek, Chinese, etc.) to cast a shadow on the great city and its cops” (Grani.ru, October 17).