Nils Udgaard at PostGlobal

Nils Udgaard

Oslo, Norway

Nils Udgaard is the foreign editor of Norway's daily newspaper Aftenposten. Close.

Nils Udgaard

Oslo, Norway

Nils Udgaard is the foreign editor of Norway's daily newspaper Aftenposten. more »

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Regaining Ukrainian & Georgian Trust

Russia is behaving today as you would expect from a very ”normal” country, playing those cards she has and protecting her national interests as she sees them. The real issue is whether she will respect the democratic will of her historic satellite neighbors to move toward the West, or whether she can regain their trust.

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All Comments (2)

Latifia chaundy:

thanks for relating the truth. The police rarely defend the foreigners in the case of attacks, I have one friend who got robbed in his room, chained as well. the robbers took his money and computer. the police said to him. that's he invented a lie. the corruption system should be changed if ukraine wants to be in EU

correspondent:

Racially Motivated Attacks on the Rise in Ukraine.

by Nickolai Butkevich
10 May 2007

Ukrainian officialdom is beginning to take notice of the rising tide of assaults on foreigners.

For years, Ukrainian officials either ignored or denied that organized hate groups even exist in Ukraine, despite reports by the media and nongovernmental organizations of a growing number of anti-Semitic and racist attacks. Breaking dramatically with this trend, on 18 March the new interior minister, Vasily Tsushko, used the occasion of his first press conference as minister to declare that police intend to crack down on neo-Nazi gangs. He also called for a law to disband organizations that use fascist symbols.

A month later, on 12 April, President Viktor Yushchenko echoed Tsushko in noting the increased activity of extremist groups in Ukraine.

What prompted this burst of candor? Coincidentally or not, an unusually high number of racist attacks took place throughout the country in March and April, raising the disturbing prospect that Ukraine may be taking its first steps on the path of neighboring Russia, where racist violence is now a daily event.

On 3 March, around 50 extremist nationalists held a rally in Kyiv. With arms extended in the fascist salute, the demonstrators screamed slogans like "Ukraine for the Ukrainians!" in a protest near the city's Shulyavsky Market, whose traders are mostly from African nations and other developing countries. The protesters accused the traders of "sleeping with our women" and held signs reading, bizarrely, "Stop Zionist-African expansion."

Three Ukrainians attacked a Chinese man who had the misfortune to walk past, chasing him into a nearby McDonald's, where security guards eventually stopped them from beating him. In late April, the market burned down in a mysterious fire; police are investigating the possibility that either neo-Nazis or ordinary criminals were behind the blaze.

Attacks on dark-skinned people are becoming so common that some past victims have resorted to arming themselves, having largely given up on the possibility that the police will protect them.

On 9 March, eight teenagers attacked five Indian students at a medical institute in Simferopol. One of the students used a scalpel during the brawl to slash one of the attackers, who was subsequently hospitalized; another Indian used a gas-powered pistol. Police denied that the attackers were neo-Nazis, despite the fact that similar attacks were reported the previous and the following month, strongly suggesting the possibility of an organized campaign to target foreign students.

Incitement of neo-Nazi violence often takes place in Ukraine with complete impunity. On 16 March, hundreds of neo-Nazis gathered in Kyiv for a "white power" rock concert by the group Tin Sontsa (Shadow of the Sun). An anti-fascist youth activist was assaulted near the concert venue – the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy – after trying to take pictures of the event. Recorded speeches of Adolf Hitler were played during the concert as the musicians screamed "Sieg heil!" and raised their arms in the fascist salute. The lead singer reportedly incited the crowd, calling out, "If you see a Jew, break his nose!" There was unconfirmed information that market traders from the Caucasus working near the concert venue were also attacked.

A particularly depressing example of racist incitement took place at a center of learning. On 18 March, university students in Kharkov held a torchlight procession on campus. Marchers shouted in unison: "One race! One nation! Our motherland – Ukraine!" and "Give the best dormitories to Ukrainian students!" University officials reportedly authorized the demonstration, which passed without incident. The head of the Kharkov Human Rights Protection Group, the country's leading human rights group, Evgeny Zakharov, said this was the third such demonstration on that campus in recent months and that violence against foreign students followed the previous marches. However, the victims were too intimidated to report the attacks to the police.

The Donetsk edition of the Russian national daily Komsomolskaya Pravda reported on 16 April, for instance, that an Egyptian diplomat was attacked in downtown Kyiv by around a dozen neo-Nazis. It is unclear if any arrests followed the attack, or if it was specifically motivated by racism.

Three neo-Nazis damaged houses being constructed by Crimean Tatars in Simferopol, according to a report in the 27 April edition of the local Golos Kryma newspaper. The incident took place on 20 April, which is Adolf Hitler's birthday – often a time of increased neo-Nazi violence. The three youths damaged eight houses before they were chased off by Crimean Tatars, an ethnic group that was deported en masse by Joseph Stalin in 1944 and allowed to return to its homeland only after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Tatars caught one of the youths and turned him over to the police. According to two witnesses quoted in the article, the young man had two swastika emblems on his clothes, along with another on his backpack. Despite this, and despite the timing of the incident, local police refuse to admit the possibility that the youths are admirers of Hitler.

Aside from the welcome candor of Yushchenko and his new interior minister on the threat that violent extremists pose to public safety, the government's reaction to this wave of violence has been mixed. As with previously reported anti-Semitic attacks, there have been relatively few arrests made in connection with the recent assaults. It remains to be seen what sort of concrete actions, if any, will follow the change in rhetoric.

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