YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Vandals rampaged through an Armenian cemetery in southern Russia–damaging monumen’s and gravestones amid heightened concern about ethnic violence across the country–AP reported. Witnesses said about 50 youths arrived at the cemetery in the city of Krasnodar at midnight on April 16 and spent several hours wrecking property. Police arrived in the morning after the vandals had fled. They refused to comment on reasons for the attack–which occurred as police in Moscow and other Russian cities are bracing for neo-Nazi attacks around Adolf Hitler’s birthday April 20.
Police of Krasnodar have detained some of the vandals that destroyed about 21 monumen’s and tombstones. A senior police official was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency saying that three members of the gang–ranging from 14 to 17 years old–have been arrested. The gang is said to have some 20 members.
The arrested youngsters said they were angry after the local soccer team lost a game to the guest team–especially after one of the players on their team of Armenian descent failed to score a goal.
Krasnodar Governor Alexander Tkachev said at a news conference that he would oversee the investigation into the cemetery attack. Tkachev prompted controversy by instituting tough rules starting this month on deporting immigran’s without proper documen’s; rules that liberals say are being used to harass dark-skinned people from the Caucasus.
Ethnic tensions have long been high in Krasnodar and other parts of southern Russia–as they are home to large numbers of illegal and legal immigran’s from impoverished nearby former Soviet republics and some refugees from the Chechnya war.
During an April 18 meeting–Armenian Parliament Speaker Armen Khachatrian and Russian Ambassador to Armenia Anatoly Dryukov reached an agreement concerning a visit of a Parliamentary delegation to Krasnodar in the near future to study the situation of local Armenia’s.
Dryukov also said that according to the preliminary agreement–it is not excluded that a delegation of the Russian State Duma will also visit Krasnodar–but the Embassy has not received official information about it yet. The ambassador categorically refused to answer questions about deporting Armenia’s from the territory–pointing out that the matter concerns the struggle against the illegal migration of the representatives of various nationalities–which is observed many countries. He said the number of such people is quite great. Each fifth resident of the territory is illegal. Ambassador Dryukov said that the territorial authorities have no problems with the legal migran’s. He also stated that a discussion was held recently–during which–the Governor Tkachev said that they must prevent the actions on inter-ethnic basis.
Dryukov emphasized that he realizes that an obviously unhealthy atmosphere is being observed around the events in the territory and said that the problem is being considered in Moscow–in Russian Duma as well as in Union of Russian Armenia’s. He added that the Russian Parliament has urged the territorial authorities to act exclusively within the framework of federal laws.
"The actions realized against illegal migran’s in Krasnodar region by the local authorities cannot be considered as an inter-ethnic struggle. A serious situation aroused regarding to illegal migration. The local authorities have no grudge against those who live legally in the region," said Dryukov.
The ambassador expressed that the Krasnodar events must not be considered as Armenian-Russian inter-ethnic collisions. As for the information that Armenian graves have been defiled–according to Dryukov–if it corresponds to reality–it is nothing but vandalism which has no justification.
Dryukov concluded: "Certain steps are being taken in order to get to know what is actually going on in Krasnodar. Our Embassy even suggested to direct a delegation of Armenian National Assembly to Krasnodar region in order to investigate what is happening there–to discuss and find ways to prevent unnecessary emotional eruptions."
Vahe Gabrielian–press secretary of the Armenian president–told journalists on April 18 that the Armenian authorities worry about the situation in Krasnodar. The matter is the information on the desecration of Armenian graves in Krasnodar spread by Russian mass media.
Gabrielian–answering a question on which measures will be undertaken by the president of the republic for the defense of compatriots living in Russia–said that this issue was raised to the Russian authorities by diplomatic channels–both through the Ambassador of Russia to Armenia and through the Ambassador of Armenia to Russia–the same day.
At the press conference after the April 18 meeting–Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian said Armenia welcomes the clear position of Russia–denouncing a number of statemen’s and vandalism in the territory. "We hope that with the help of Russian authorities–we’ll manage to prevent such a development of events," Oskanian said–stating that Armenia is making corresponding efforts via diplomatic channels.
Commenting on recent criticism concerning the appointment of the new Armenian Ambassador to Russi Oskanian said Ambassador Smbatian used to be a minister and has had political experience–and his appointment as an ambassador is fully consonant with diplomatic practice.