Russia Responds to Anti-Migrant Riots by Arresting Migrants

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Maxim Shipenkov / EPA

Russian police officers detain alleged illegal immigrants during a raid at a vegetable warehouse in Moscow on Oct 14, 2013

There was no easy way for the mayor of Moscow to respond to this weekend’s race riots. On Sunday night, a violent mob clashed with police in the south of the city, hurling bottles, destroying property and screaming for a purge of minorities from Central Asia and the Caucasus. Their leaders claimed it was revenge for the unsolved murder last week of a Russian man at the hands of a dark-skinned migrant worker. But while Mayor Sergei Sobyanin was quick to condemn the tactics of the mob, he found it hard to distance himself from its logic. Just this summer, during the city’s mayoral race, Sobyanin was the one who brought xenophobia into the political mainstream. Now he was forced to reap what he’d sown.

So his reaction to the violence, bizarre as it seems, was understandable on Monday morning, when he briefed President Vladimir Putin on the incident. Instead of pledging to rebuild or at least protect the vegetable warehouse that the racist mob had ransacked, Sobyanin ordered it to close down for using migrant labor. And, instead of trying to calm the immigrants who were the targets of the violence, he ordered raids on street markets to arrest more than a thousand migrants at random. “We are carrying out a series of inspections not only at the [damaged] warehouse but other markets in Moscow in order to establish order,” the mayor told Putin. Almost as an afterthought, he mentioned that police had arrested the organizers of the riot and charged them with “hooliganism.”

(MORE: Moscow Rioters Lash Out Against a ‘Migrant’ Murderer)

His focus on the threat of illegal migrant workers — rather than the threat of skinheads and nationalists — was in line with the rhetoric he trotted out this summer. During an interview in May with a Moscow daily, Sobyanin, who previously served as Putin’s chief of staff, made no bones about his attitude toward foreigners. “People who don’t speak Russian well, who have a totally different culture, they are better off living in their own country,” the incumbent mayor said. “That is why we do not welcome their adaptation in Moscow.”

In late July, he ordered a massive dragnet to arrest illegal immigrants at bazaars across the city. Thousands of them were rounded up, mostly migrant workers from Vietnam. By August, the city’s jails were so overcrowded with these detainees that Sobyanin ordered the construction of a camp to house them in an industrial yard equipped with tents and port-o-potties. State-run television networks meanwhile touted the effort as a sign of Sobyanin’s toughness on illegal immigration.

Nikolai Petrov, an expert on local elections at the Carnegie Endowment in Moscow, says this campaign strategy lifted a long-standing taboo among the ruling party. Previously, xenophobic rhetoric was the providence of fringe politicians and right-wingers, while the elites around Putin “saw it as uncouth and even dangerous” to play on racist sentiments, says Petrov. The dangers became particularly clear in December 2010, when football fans and skinheads staged a riot at the Kremlin walls, beating dozens of dark-skinned passersby and leaving swastikas scrawled on surrounding buildings. That was the most violent display of ethnic hatred to erupt in Moscow under Putin’s rule, and it reminded the elites that xenophobia is a force best kept contained.

(MORE: Russia’s Elections: Even in Defeat, Anti-Putin Camp Finds Victory)

But as last month’s mayoral election approached, Sobyanin’s campaign team seemed unable to resist the political temptation. Polls showed anti-immigrant sentiment was high among the electorate, and it was a far easier issue for Sobyanin to turn in his favor than corruption or tawdry social services. “So Sobyanin not only failed to dampen these racist feelings, not only turned a blind eye to manifestations of racism, but he took up this anti-immigrant rhetoric as the basis of his campaign,” Petrov says.

The Moscow mayor was not the only politician trying harness this energy. Particularly among young men, aggression toward immigrants is no less ferocious in Russia than in many European countries inundated with foreign laborers. But Russia has no independent party capable of representing the political far right; the Kremlin has not allowed such movements gain a foothold in the electoral processes. The country’s right-wing youth have thus tended to coalesce around football clubs and other informal groups, giving rise to a fierce and politically marginalized subculture of nationalism.

Sobyanin’s main rival in last month’s election, the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, has long been known to associate with nationalist groups, and he had a strong chance of garnering their support if Sobyanin failed to co-opt them in the lead-up to the election. After this weekend’s riot in Moscow, Navalny again showed his sympathy for the anti-immigrant movement, lashing out against the “hordes of legal and illegal immigrants” who live and work around the city’s bazaars. “From there they crawl out to the surrounding neighborhoods,” Navalny wrote on his blog on Monday. “They’re not going to die of hunger when they can’t find work, not when they can snatch a purse in the subway or take somebody’s money at knifepoint in an elevator.” So the rioters, Navalny suggested, were justified in pushing back against the immigrant threat. “If there is no fair way to resolve conflicts and problems, then people will create it themselves, with primitive and desperate measures,” he wrote.

Over the weekend, these measures caused dozens of injuries, hundreds of arrests and millions of dollars in property damage. But neither of the two leading candidates in last month’s mayoral election would condemn them outright. Such are the new political realities of Moscow, where xenophobia, as Petrov puts it, “is now par for the course.”

97 comments
FrankBurns
FrankBurns

Russia addresses the actual problem rather than feign indignant outrage at the "xenophobic racists" who don't worship at the altar of Vibrant Diversity or bow before the god of Multiculturalism.  The horror!!!

auroraazurebaptista
auroraazurebaptista

Studied Russian, love the culture, but won't be going there. At least in America legal minorities like blacks and native americans are left alone mostly. Seems like in Russia, legal or illegal, color is wrong.

juanutah
juanutah

We need to follow the Russians instead of listening to the lib-tards to oppose it like the author.

SamGordon
SamGordon

We need to do the same here in the USA before all is lost.

ozette11
ozette11

Thsi comment s page is Full og Racists and Bigots. We all came from some place in America. You just do not get it. Selfish people

Bluhorizon
Bluhorizon

The greatest single vehicle for transferring wealth from the middle class to the wealthy is our congress.  They have waffled and done nothing about illegal immigration for my entire life because the Agra-dictatorship and big companies like the meat packers want cheap labor. They do not care if the hidden cost of illegal aliens causes misery in our woking class and they do not care if the hidden costs of illegals is passed along to the taxpayer.  Like very other rich group they bribe our congressmen (uh, pardon me "contribute") and the result is just what they want--nothing. Business as usual. 

I cannot salute the riots in Russia on the other hand clearly Americans do not have the spine to do what is needed to wake up the congress and after all, they don't care what you say, just how much you "contribute." Speech is fee.  Anything else, you gotta pay. Frankly I think the congress would look far better hanging from lamp posts like Mussolini. 

CongratsTrayvon
CongratsTrayvon

I wish we had a government in the US with the backbone to stand up to illegal BS. Putin is 50 times the man Obama is. Obama would give them all EBTs, drivers licenses, and jobs campaigning for the democrats.

fredlb
fredlb

Those who don't believe in borders, national sovereignty, or the nation-state  are the only ones condemning Russia in this matter.

KgBerger
KgBerger

The US needs to take a few lessons from the Russians on to deal with problems as this 

ozette11
ozette11

The Russians are overunning Thailand as a vacation spot or in mnay cases as a place to set mafia style crimes. I have personaally seen them verbally abuse Thai’s (In Loud Russian Language of Course) I seen them push Thai;s out of the way. Thye are boorish people. They cause innumberable problems through Thailand. Their behavior is understandable seeing their xenophobic and racists stance they bring from home. It is only the ill gotten Russian money that convinced Thailand to give them visa free entry. I am sure now they regret it

Bluhorizon
Bluhorizon

All over the world a combination a land mismanagement and poor economy (caused by bad government) and the inevitable civil unrest is driving millions of people to search for another home.  They are desperate and our hearts go out to them.  But there is a difference between being sympathetic and allowing them to inundate one's country, change the demography, require services and take jobs.  

To make matters worse, the poverty in most poor countries is not caused by lack of resources.  Singapore, which has no resources and not even a single cow is one of the richest countries in the world. So, giving aid to poor countries is just a way of feeling better, not a way of fixing what is broken.

Russia is already poor.  The population is in decline and alcohol/drug use huge.  Since their situation is more desperate than in the US it is not hard to understand their fury at illegal immigration.

To be frank, many of the Muslim countries have the worst governments.  The people are desperate. Be kind and they will come in their millions. Every time a country feels sympathy for illegals this is an incentive for them to come.  What will the US and other countries do with hundreds of millions of illegal refugees desperate to escape the inadequacies of their own system?

kcisobderf
kcisobderf

Russians drawing swastikas on walls should give the authorities pause.

CAmeateater
CAmeateater

And there you go..All you americans who threw their full support behind Putin for housing Snowden.  PACK YOUR BAGS, you should not longer be accommodated in the USA...Russia is who you support, not america.  BE FREE NOW with Snowden!

Karl
Karl

Illegal immigrants, 10-12 million in the USA. Legal immigrants? Millions too many already. Save the BS about this being a nation of immigrants. The point being you think we have no right in the US to a guarded border or to deny entry to whomever we please? There's no law, except in the minds of fools, that says we "have"  to take in anybody. Nobody has a right to move to the United States. There is no such right. If you live here or anywhere you have a right to leave if you can, but there is no right in any country on Earth to move in just because you want to. And those who who say there is such a right and no one in a free society can prevent immigrants coming moving in when and where they like will destroy the Western World one state at a time and be the indirect cause behind the rise of demogogues running new regimes based on protecting what each country has from everybody else. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. The Statue of Liberty has been lighting this unions' road to hell since the French sent it here in the 1880's.

KellyHenderson
KellyHenderson

i am an american. i live in a democracy. i have family who came here as migrant farm workers. sent their sons to die in vietnam. some died. now they are americans too. russia is just a tiny ussr, again willing to blame and arrest the blameless for some stupid reason. isn't it time for the ussr to finally go away. don't arrest the weak, arrest your "president for life". become a nation with honor

Bluhorizon
Bluhorizon

No matter how sympathetic people are to illegal aliens they are illegal and comport with unskilled  legal residents for jobs--which is why they come in the first place.  In America unskilled jobs are getting scarce due to mechanization.  Of the angry people I have talked to the angriest about illegal immigration ate Mexican-Americans who live near the border.   They complain they did everything to get to America legally and now thy see their jobs taken away by illegals. 


The most effective way to reduce this is by harsh penalties to employers including large fines followed a second time by jail.  People feel sympathy for illegals but maybe the sympathy is best directed to legal citizens who are struggling.  


So, I can understand how the Russians feel.  Rioting is an expression of desperation.

ChinGao
ChinGao

We were there first.

During the minutemen (now the Tea Party) riots, Bush 2, started arresting immigrants. 

LantzHalz
LantzHalz

I thought it was an article about the Tea Party from the way the Russian government is acting.

HarryKuheim
HarryKuheim

Mexico has been knowingly Exporting their poor to the US forever...

Kinnison
Kinnison

No nation has the responsibility to care for the illegally-entered citizens of another and to provide them public services.  They are responsible for their own citizens, period.  Certainly the Russians may round up illegals and ship them home.  So can the British, the Danes, the Swedes, the French, the Swiss, the Italians, the Aussies...  If we were actually following our own laws, we would be doing so too.

keverich1
keverich1

@FrankBurns  

 Yeah, and Mr Shuster being a proud Jew is obviously upset about that.

whthfu
whthfu

@FrankBurns  yea russia "addresses" the problems - which is why it has a vibrant democracy, free press, expanding economy and growing labor force & increasing life expectancy... 

Riiiiiighhhht !!

whthfu
whthfu

@SamGordon Oh trust me.. when the US becomes a third world post communist dictatorship like russia is under Putin.. all would have been far lost by then...

Billy_Bumtrip
Billy_Bumtrip

@ozette11  You are wrong. Name calling those you do not agree with makes you look childish.


FrankBurns
FrankBurns

@ozette11 You're the one who "doesn't get it."  Unfortunately, sheep like you are the majority.

kinolurtz
kinolurtz

@CongratsTrayvon you are a blatant moron if you think life would be better being governed by Putin than by Obama. You must be American, to be so ignorant of your own good fortune.

RangerDanParsons
RangerDanParsons

@KgBerger  I knew this is the first thing I would see.  Americans wanting Soviet dictatorship style head busting, Putin style gay bashing, arrests made of those that dissent, and police state behavior by our government.  If you want it, then move there comrade

ozette11
ozette11

@KgBerger Maybe you should move to Russia. You may be more happy there

Billy_Bumtrip
Billy_Bumtrip

@Bluhorizon  Actually the economy in Russia is growing. It isn't perfect but it will take time for the evils of Socialism to fade. Russia is poised to become an economic power.


CAmeateater
CAmeateater

@Karl All non natives of America should go back to Europe...you are absolutely correct, but that's more than 10-12 million

Karl
Karl

@KellyHenderson I believe Russia is the largest country on Earth. They have plenty of honor. They defeated the Nazis, we just helped out in Europe. We defeated Japan. I'm glad you are an American and that your folks came here but that does not mean we can't shut down all imigration by law if Congress and the president choose to do it. And I say by God they should have done it tens of millions of immigrants ago.

RangerDanParsons
RangerDanParsons

@Bluhorizon Put a few CEO's and HR Directors in jail (first offense), dry up the jobs, and they'll all go home on their own.  The businesses that hire them are the real criminals here. 

KellyHenderson
KellyHenderson

@Bluhorizon why the second time. i had ice visit two places of employment with buses and swat teams going floor by floor picking up illegals. do you think any of the owners spent a day in jail, even when almost all of their employees were illegal. no, blame the victim, let the man making money off the victim free

BigDee
BigDee

Obviously we value your "unbiased" opinion. Next time, follow your forum picture and close it before you stick your foot in it again.

HarryKuheim
HarryKuheim

@Kinnison They should have never gotten in in the first place...it's too late to do anything about it now that the US President is openly supporting their cause...he just let Thousands of Illegals protest on the US Mall in DC while snubbing Veterans.

Billy_Bumtrip
Billy_Bumtrip

@RangerDanParsons @KgBerger  Russia now reminds me of how America used to be when it was great. I see more police state behavior in the US now than in Russia. Russia now has a greater moral compass the the US

KellyHenderson
KellyHenderson

@CAmeateater @Karl  gosh darn, i have to hustle back to white horse saskatchewan , where my father was born, and my cold dead mother obviously lied when she said she had never worked as a prostitute-teacher. still you can not win. america will get more brown. damn, i should have asked that russian linguist from the johns to marry me. her parents were against it, my in laws were for it, let this be a lesson to you all

LantzHalz
LantzHalz

@BigDee Unlike you, I do not hide my identity.  Your kind always lurks in the shadows.


kinolurtz
kinolurtz

@Billy_Bumtrip @RangerDanParsons @KgBerger you really are a drip if you think that. Open your eyes, stop being a moron. Do you seriously think the US is more of a police state than Russia? How? In what way? Which of your basic freedoms are being restricted in the US to the extent that living in Putin's Russia would be better?

Karl
Karl

@RangerDanParsons @Karl @KellyHenderson Almost all of European Russia was occupied by the Germans, they fought the battle that doomed the third Reich in Russia 3rd biggest city Tsaritsn/Stalingrad/Vogagrad, changes its' name depending on history, The Battle of Stalingrad makes any battle the US engaged in WWII pale by comparison. Without the A-bomb we might have faced the same in Japan. They stamped out half a million purple heart medals for that but after the A-bombs they weren't needed. My dad fought from 42-45 in the Pacific. My uncles with English last names fought in Europe, one granduncle came home with an English bride back to Mississippi. We lost probably less than 200,000 men in Europe, Russia lost 20,000,000, mostly civilians. One million starved to death in the siege of Leningrad/St. Petersburg (read the best-seller by Harrison Salisbury from the 60's). Millions of Russian POWs were left to starve to death in open fields. Our POWS were seen by the Red Cross (the Germans treated them differently for racist reasons) and I lived for a year 20 years ago with a man who'd spent a year in a US POW camp in Germany after being shot down over Germany. He had been burned badly, survived that and the march west in the snow in 44 away from the incoming Russians, on the same roads with millions of German civilians (11 million Deutsch lost their homes in Hitler's defeat and they would never go home in any sense of the word). The Russians lost half a million men in the Battle of Berlin alone. If you don't know much history then don't make blanket statements. D-Day was a success because the Germans were occupied being driven out of Russia in June 1944, by April the Reds were in the burning ruins of the German capital.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@LantzHalz @BigDee I do not know about that Lantz, you look a little young to be using a computer. seems like hiding just a bit to me.