Saturday, February 26, 2005

Human rights activists under attack

The PRIMA news agency reports an attack on human rights activists in St Petersburg:
RUSSIA, St. Petersburg. 18 February around 11 p.m. three unidentified men attacked the Memorial Research Centre in St. Petersburg. They brutally beat the duty member of Memorial’s staff Emmanouil Polyakov. A man of advanced years, he sustained serious injuries and may lose both his eyes.

Irina Flighe, director of the Memorial Research Centre told PRIMA-News correspondent that Emmanouil Polyakov remained without medical assistance for 12 hours until he was discovered on 19 February by a member of staff who turned up for work. The nature of his injuries indicates that he had been beaten mainly on the head and more than likely kicked.

The assailants broke into the safes and stole office equipment. Irina Flighe believes that the attackers knew that an elderly man would be on duty that night and that nobody would turn up there on Saturday morning. They also knew the outlay of the Research Centre’s premises, the director suggests.

Irina Flighe noted that this by far was not the first crime against human rights activists in the recent time. 14 August 2003 masked men attacked one of Memorial’s offices in St. Petersburg which also resulted in the theft of office equipment. Then the attackers were identified as they had visited the office earlier without masks to have a look around.

11 December Memorial Research Centre’s executive director Vladimir Shnitke was also attacked by unknown assailants.

19 June, Nikolai Ghirenko, an ethnologist who carried out expert analysis of publications that fuelled interethnic hatred, was killed in St. Petersburg.

Human rights defenders in St. Petersburg have been constantly involved with the issues of interethnic relations, they work to counter xenophobia and nationalism. Recently Memorial Research Centre and Centre for Antifascism headed by Memorial member Yuliy Rybakov announced an antifascist poster competition.

Irina Flighe is certain that their opposition to xenophobia is the most likely reason for the harassment of human rights activists and that the attacks are politically motivated. In the meantime, the authorities are ceaselessly trying to convince the public that such incidents are no more than acts of hooliganism. In the same way they call hooliganism nationalistic and racist crimes, she stressed.

Translated by Olga Sharp
PRIMA-News Agency [2005-02-21-Rus-24]
(Via justice4northcaucasus)

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