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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 May 2006, 00:03 GMT 01:03 UK
Racist attacks that stain Russia
By James Rodgers
BBC News, St Petersburg, Russia

Yunos Sultonov with a photo of his daughter
Yunos Sultonov says the jury had more sympathy for the killers
"It was because of my colour. They don't like us. They didn't like my skin."

Yunus Sultonov, a market trader from Tajikistan, was explaining why a gang had killed Khursheda, his nine year old daughter.

Yunus had taken Khursheda skating. They were on their way home when the attackers struck.

We were talking in a cold, damp storeroom where Yunus rests when he is not looking after his stall.

His wife Maljuda was there too, but she did not say anything. She just looked at a picture of her daughter, then wept.

'A lost generation'

Yuri Belyaev
Russians are fed up with being humiliated in their own country
Yuri Belyaev

The streets of St Petersburg are dangerous for outsiders.

After dark, bands of skinheads will attack anyone who is not white.

They are so proud of their murderous acts that they have even filmed some of them.

The skinheads are a lost generation whose childhood disappeared in the chaos of Russia in the 1990s.

Now in their teens and early twenties, they have embraced a twisted creed of hatred and violence.

Yuri Belyaev is one of its authors. He describes himself as a racist. He claims widespread public support for his views.

"Russians are fed up with being humiliated in their own country. Negroes have more rights here and immigrants own all the property," he told me.

He makes light of the current wave of attacks saying, "The resistance you see for now is of the most innocent kind."

Unsafe streets

Alexander Sungurov has been active in liberal politics in St Petersburg since the last days of the Soviet Union.

With the certainties of communism and cold war gone, he says, the racists' simple message appeals to youth without prospects or purpose.

"They try to have their identity through killing - looking for some enemy. Who is the enemy? Not Americans, but people with other colour of skin."

Ali Nassor
Ali Nassor says life has become worse for foreigners

That seems to have been the simple, brutal motive for one of the most recent killings.

Sall Samba Lampsar, a student from Senegal, was shot dead on his way home from a nightclub.

Africans and others are scared. They feel that not enough is being done to protect them.

Earlier this month, they demonstrated to demand better protection from the police.

We asked the St Petersburg authorities for an interview, but no-one would talk to us.

Their critics say that they have no clear plan to deal with the violence - and this in a city which is a magnet for business people, students and tourists from abroad.

Ali Nassor came here from Zanzibar 20 years ago.

He has lived in the city through all the upheavals and uncertainty of the last two decades. He says life for outsiders has never been as bad.

"We are just being killed openly," he told me. "I mean, it's just no more under control."


A still from a video of an attack
Some of the perpetrators have taken to filming their attacks

Yunus Sultonov echoes that feeling of defencelessness. The jury at the trial of his daughter's killers found them guilty of "hooliganism", not murder. As a result, they received lighter sentences.

"They weren't sorry for the girl they killed, they were sorry for them," he says of the verdict which was reached last month.

"They were 15 or 16 years old so they were sorry for them. They weren't sorry for my daughter."

In July, St Petersburg - the home town of President Vladimir Putin - will host the G8 summit of the world's richest and most powerful countries. They are already smartening up the city's streets and buildings.

For the visit of presidents and prime ministers, St Petersburg will shine.

The stain that racist murders have left on its reputation will be harder to remove.

Russian racism 'out of control'
04 May 06 |  Europe
Living with race hate in Russia
24 Feb 06 |  Europe
Murder of African alarms Russia
26 Dec 05 |  Europe
Country profile: Russia
21 Mar 06 |  Country profiles

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