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Xenophobia could destroy Russia unless it is countered by law enforcement and education
Xenophobia could destroy Russia unless it is countered by law enforcement and education, a senior Kremlin official told an analytical weekly Monday. Xenophobia has taken on alarming dimensions in Russia, with a wave of brutal race-hate crimes sweeping the country in the past few years. "Ethnic criminal groups and the xenophobia they engender could destroy multiethnic Russia unless they are defeated by the justice system, education and successful development," Vladislav Surkov, deputy chief of the Kremlin administration, told Expert magazine. Surkov said criminal networks, above all terrorist ones, had infected many people of various ethnic origins, including ethnic Russians, with xenophobia, the weekly reported. Russians, mainly in large cities, have grown particularly guarded about migrant workers flooding in from provincial areas with lower living standards and from poor ex-Soviet republics. "Charlatans who promote the benefits of ethnic isolation want to force Russians out of a multi-ethnic Russia," Surkov said. He called on locals and their migrant "guests" to act within the law and show mutual respect. The problem attracted widespread attention in early September when local residents rioted after two Russians were killed in an inter-ethnic brawl at a restaurant allegedly owned by Chechens in northwest Russia. The local community accused authorities of failing to protect them or safeguard their interests, and of accepting bribes from criminal immigrant groups. Surkov turned to history and said that Russia's greatest political projects, such as the Christian idea of a Third Rome or the Socialist Third International, had been open to people of different ethnic origins. "We have every right to be, and will be, proud of all the best we have inherited from the [Russian] Empire and the Soviet Union, including a unique understanding between the Orthodox Church and the Islamic Community, and with other confessions," he said. A recent string of attacks on foreign students has cast a shadow over such Russian cities as St. Petersburg and Voronezh, about 310 miles south of Moscow, which have traditionally been a popular destination for foreign undergraduates. In St. Petersburg alone, a student from Senegal was killed in April and a nine-year-old girl of mixed Russian-African origin stabbed in early 2006. A nine-year-old Tajik girl died of stab wounds in February 2004 when a group of young men attacked her, her father and an 11-year-old cousin. Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said last week that 150 extremist groups, in particular race-hate groups, with a total membership of around 10,000 were operating in Russia.
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