Russian Murder Underscores Danger Faced by Antifascist Activists
(New York, NY November 17, 2009) On November 16, a well-known Russian antifascist activist, Ivan Khutorskoi, was shot to death in Moscow. It has been reported that authorities are investigating the execution-style murder and whether Khutorskoi fell victim to his ideological opponents from the ranks of Russia’s right-wing ultranationalist or neo-Nazi skinhead movement. Human Rights First has frequently voiced concern about violent attacks on racial and ethnic minorities in the Russian Federation, where there has been a dramatic upsurge in hate crimes in recent years, largely committed by neo-Nazis. “After many years of denying the problem and allowing the neo-Nazi movement to grow and mature, the Russian authorities have finally started paying more attention to the intensifying violence this year, particularly after neo-Nazis carried out a series of attacks against police precincts,” said Human Rights First’s Paul LeGendre. According to the organization, racist and other violent attacks by neo-Nazi skinhead groups have been on the rise since 2004, growing by some 15% per year. The latest data available from nongovernmental sources put the 2008 death toll from racially-motivated murders at 109 far higher than anywhere else in Europe. People like Khutorskoi, antifascist activists opposed to racist violence, have also been frequent targets in violent attacks. Just a few months ago, on June 28, 2009, assailants used knives and air pistols in a murderous attack on another antifascist activist, Ilya Dzhaparidze. Likewise, in 2009, extreme right-wing groups intensified their threats against the leading monitor of racist and bias crimes in Russia, the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis. On multiple occasions, in particular ahead of press conferences concerning the involvement of extremist groups in violence against ethnic and religious minorities, the Center’s Director, Alexander Verkhovsky, and Deputy Director, Galina Kozhevnikova, received direct threats. “The number of hate crime murders in Russia has dropped by some 20% compared to last year, in part due to a series of arrests of suspected perpetrators. Even so, neo-Nazis and others are still able to carry out both random murders of migrants and contract-style killings of prominent antifascist supporters and human rights defenders,” added LeGendre, whose program looks at hate crime in the fifty-six countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The brutal murder of Khutorskoi happened on the same day that the OSCE released its annual report “Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region Incidents and Responses,” concluding that hate crime is still a significant problem throughout North America, Europe, and the former Soviet Union. To compliment the intergovernmental report, U.S. international rights groups Human Rights First (HRF) and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a reaction paper that highlights the failure of many of the OSCE states to fulfill commitments to combat the problem.