Russian Prosecutorial Authorities Decline Investigation of Hate Speech

01 February 2006

On September 16, 2005, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) sent a second joint statement urging Mr Vladimir Ustinov, Prosecutor- General of the Russian Federation, to open a criminal investigation against the Russian national television station NTV on the grounds of incitement to racial hatred in accordance with Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code. Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code establishes criminal liability for "actions aimed at the incitement of hatred or enmity, as well as abasement of dignity of a person or a group of persons on the basis of sex, race, nationality, language, origin, attitude to religion, as well as affiliation to any social group, if these acts have been committed in public or with the use of mass media."

The statement of the ERRC/ MHG was in follow-up to joint action by the two organisations against a February 10, 2004, documentary broadcast entitled Coma devoted to "Roma drug dealers" in Kimry, Tver region, on NTV, including an appeal for violent action against Roma. During the broadcast, Father Andrey (Lazarev), a well-known local Orthodox priest, repeatedly urged viewers to burn down Romani houses. Father Andrey stated during the documentary that Kimry has become one of the chief transit points of the drug trafficking in Russia and identified Roma as the main actors in the Russian drug trade. A drug addict, a non- Romani man named "Sasha", repeated the same message and stated that "only napalm can solve the problem with Romani drug dealers".

The first appeal by the ERRC and the MHG to the Prosecutor-General to investigate the lawfulness of NTV's broadcast of Coma was sent on June 28, 2004. The ERRC and MHG included a videocassette of the documentary in their communication. On November 18, 2004, Mr A.N.Yushkov, the Prosecutor of Ostankinskiy district of Moscow, responded that the videocassette provided by the authors of the letter "was not produced in accordance with the procedural rules and therefore cannot be taken into consideration. Due to the lack of procedural status it cannot be considered as evidence." While the response of the District Prosecutor's Office was formally in accordance with Russian law regarding evidentiary rules, the ERRC and the MHG are of the opinion that if the institution had taken the alleged violation of criminal law seriously it would have ordered an expert verification of the cassette's contents. Therefore, on February 22, 2005, the ERRC and the MHG requested that the Ostankinskiy Prosecutor order expert verification of the videocassette's contents and that the prosecutor initiate criminal investigation. On July 4, 2005, Mr D.Y. Kulakov, deputy prosecutor of the northeastern administrative district of Moscow, responded that Mr Yushkov's rejection was lawful and restated that there were no grounds to open criminal investigation.

The full text of the ERRC/ MHG letter to the Prosecutor- General in Russian is available at: The ERRC sent a number of other advocacy letters on hate speech issues in Russia during the period. The ERRC is currently implementing a project on hate speech in the Russian media, with British government support.



Challenge discrimination, promote equality


Receive our public announcements Receive our Roma Rights Journal


The latest Roma Rights news and content online

join us

Find out how you can join or support our activities