By Harry Tamrazian in Prague
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian expressed concern on Monday at continuing racist attacks on Armenians in Russia, but again stopped short of laying the blame on the Russian authorities.
“We are very concerned that such incidents recur again and again,” Oskanian told RFE/RL, commenting on the resurgence of anti-Armenian violence in the Krasnodar Kray of southern Russia.
Leaders of the local Armenian community say that hundreds of angry youths rampaged through the streets of the regional town of Slavyansk-na-Kubani over the weekend, beating its Armenian residents and smashing their property. According to the deputy editor of Krasnodar’s Armenian-language newspaper “Yerkramas,” Victor Stepanian, local police did not intervene to stop the riots. Stepanian told RFE/RL by phone that more than a dozen Armenians were hospitalized with serious injuries.
He said the editorial offices of “Yerkramas” were burglarized on September 3 by unknown thieves who stole the newspaper’s equipment, including computers.
The Krasnodar region became the focal point of anti-Armenian sentiment in Russia earlier this year when its controversial governor, Aleksandr Tkachov, announced plans to expel hundreds of thousands of “illegal immigrants” from the Caucasus and Central Asia. In April, several dozen Russian youths went on a rampage through the Armenian cemetery of Krasnodar, vandalizing gravestones and monuments.
A similar anti-Armenian pogrom occurred last July in a town 50 kilometers northeast of Moscow where gangs armed with knives and metal stick rioted impunity for several hours.
“I don’t want to think that these attacks are orchestrated by some organized center,” Oskanian said, speaking to RFE/RL from New York. He said the Armenian government continues to convey its concerns to Moscow “through diplomatic channels” and does not intend to raise the matter with the Council of Europe.