Armenians Protest Racist Killings in Russia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Armenpress)–Several dozen people staged a demonstration outside the Russian embassy in Yerevan on Monday to protest racially-motivated killings of Armenia’s and other non-Slavs in Russia.

The protesters–most of them representatives of several Armenian civic groups–accused Moscow of connivance and even complicity in the xenophobic violence widely blamed on tens of thousands of neo-Nazi skinheads operating across Russia.

The demonstrators presented a statement to embassy officials–saying that in 2005 there were about 402 attacks and 28 murders of non-Slavs in Russia. In 2006 alone–6 ethnic Armenia’s have been killed in Moscow.

"The citizens of Armenia and Armenian non-governmental organizations condemn the activity of raging nationalistic organizations in Russia and the negligence of Russian law-enforcement bodies to detect perpetrators and punish them. We demand that Russian authorities take speed measures to arrest murderers and punish them," the statement said.

The protest was sparked by the fatal stabbing of a 19 year old Russian citizen of Armenian descent–Artur Sardarian–by a group of youths on a train in a Moscow suburb.

Simon Tsaturian–who represents the family of another ethnic Armenian killed in Moscow in April–cited witnesses as saying the murderers were chanting "Glory to Russia" while stabbing Arthur Sardarian. The attackers then stopped the train by setting off an alarm and escaped.

Few of the perpetrators of these racially motivated killings have been arrested and brought to justice.

A case in point was the St. Petersburg trial of seven teenagers–who were convicted of stabbing to death a 9 year old Tajik girl but were sentenced only between 18 months and five years in prison last February.

Protestors also denounced the Armenian Government’s reluctance to bring Russia to task over the killings. They marched to the Armenian Foreign Ministry to condemn its failure to publicly criticize the Russian authorities for their failure to stop the violence.

Armenia’s ambassador in Moscow and other diplomats say they regularly raise the issue with Russian officials. But the organizers of the protest insisted that Yerevan is scared of openly challenging its closest ally.

"I am convinced that if the Armenian authorities took a tougher line the situation would not be so grave," said Ishkhanian.

"The Armenian authorities are not doing anything to stop the killings," charged another protester–Arsen Kharatian. "Their failure to speak out is a crime in itself."

Sardarian’s violent death came in the wake of an uproar caused by the killing of another young Armenian. The 17 year old Vigen Abramiants was stabbed to death on a Moscow subway platform on April 22.

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