Racist Attacks on Roma in Russia Cause Death and Severe Injury

13 November 2006

According to Ms Elena Konstantinova, a local Romani activist, between 9:00 and 10:00 PM on 13 April 2006, Mr Grigoriy Marienkov, a Romani man and a Russian woman named Galina Ponomareva were killed by youths identified by local Roma as skinheads near the town of Volzhskiy in the Volgograd region of Russia. At the time of the attack and killings, Mr Marienkov's family and their Russian guest were sitting by a fire just outside the tent they inhabited. ERRC sources reported that between 9:00 and 10:00 PM, a group of approximately 20 youths, armed with metal bars and spades, attacked the group and beat them until all the victims lost consciousness. The group then reportedly left the site. A young male member of the family reportedly regained consciousness and called the police shortly after 10:00 PM. It was established that two people, a Romani male and the visiting non- Romani woman, both in their 40s, had died of their wounds. Additionally, two of the Romani man's relatives were hospitalised: 80-year-old Ms Polina Marienkova's jaw was broken and 13-year-old Roza Marienkova suffered head injuries. The teenager spent several days in hospital in critical condition.

As of 4 May, the Volgograd Regional Prosecutor had opened a criminal investigation under Article 105 of the Russian Criminal Code for murder of two or more persons, committed by a group of persons, motivated by national, racial or religious hatred. According to the local lawyer dealing with the case, Ms T.P., police arrested nine perpetrators, both male and female, five of whom are students from Volgograd secondary school No 28. As of 5 May, the suspects were being held in police custody. As of 16 August, the case was still under investigation by the Prosecutor's Office. The ERRC continues to monitor the case, to ensure adequate prosecution of all perpetrators and effective justice for the surviving victims.

ERRC monitoring of the human rights situation of Roma in Russia indicates that nationalistextremist movements have been gaining popularity in Russia over the past decade, and racially motivated violence against Roma occurs with disturbing frequency. Roma are particularly exposed to attacks by nationalist-extremist vigilante groups because they live in compact settlements that are easy to identify. The 13 April attack has precedents in the same area of Russia. In August 2001, a Romani community settled along the Tsaritsa river near Volgograd was attacked by skinheads armed with metal bars, stones and wooden truncheons, and two Roma were killed.

The ERRC report "In Search of Happy Gypsies: Persecution of Pariah Minorities in Russia" published in May 2005 (the full text of the report is available HERE), details numerous attacks against Roma in various parts of the country, including arson and indiscriminate beatings, causing death and severe injuries to Romani individuals. Most often these actions are not investigated or police deny racial motivation. Many attacks are not even reported to the police due to reasonable fear of harassment and extortion by the police themselves.

(ERRC, The Associated Press, The Guardian)


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