Foreign students scared to leave their homes after stabbings in St Petersburg

An African student was stabbed to death and another seriously wounded in St Petersburg over the Christmas weekend, raising fears that hate crimes are spreading across Russia. A Cameroonian student was killed just hours after another two Africans were slashed with a knife on the same street. All three victims were members of St Petersburg's Water Transport University, where many foreigners study and live together in dormitories. Many are now terrified to go out onto the streets of St Petersburg.

"We don't know who the next victim will be," said Toni Dukimo, an African student who was a friend of the murdered victim. "Maybe it will be me, when I am going home tonight."

Russian police, who have been criticised for a muted response to a spate of similar attacks, were reluctant to describe the stabbing as racially motivated. "It could be hooliganism, a settling of scores, extremism," said Sergei Zaitsev, a local police spokesman. But human rights groups in Russia say the murder has all the hallmarks of a rise in racially motivated attacks by skinhead groups over the past few years which has been "practically ignored" by authorities and police.

Andrew Suberu, deputy head of African Unity, a support group for African students in St Petersburg, said skinheads were definitely involved.

"According to my information, the attackers looked like skinheads. Now such attacks are a usual story in St Petersburg," he said.

According to the Moscow Bureau of Human Rights (MBHR), 59 people have been killed in racist attacks in Russia in the past two years. In October, an 18-year-old Peruvian student was murdered in a southern university town popular with British students. Enrique Urtado was set upon by a gang of 20 youths who beat him and his friends with metal poles and wooden stakes.

Researchers have warned that Voronezh, a depressed city with high unemployment rates 300 miles south of Moscow, had become the country's main skinhead recruiting ground, labelling the city a "crucible of race hatred". Russia is estimated to be home to more than 50,000 skinheads, with 10,000 in Moscow and 5,000 in St Petersburg alone.

Critics argue the lethargic attitude of the police in chasing and prosecuting racist attacks has encouraged neo-Nazi groups to flourish. Using names such as "Blood and Honour", "Moscow Hammer Skin" and "Skin Legion" some observers fear their numbers could rise to over 100,000 within a few years.

It is not just extremist racism on the peripheries of society that is worrying observers. A leading racism monitoring website in Russia surveyed opinion in the first half of 2005 and found up to 60 per cent of Russians held some type of xenophobic viewpoint. Among the least-liked ethnic minorities were Chechens, Azeris and Armenians. Much of the neo-Nazi literature circulating among extremist groups in Russia has concentrated on insisting Russia is a purely white country.

Political parties have also increasingly resorted to tough immigration policies and xenophobic rhetoric to win votes. The MBHR recently published a report monitoring xenophobia during the Moscow local elections and found "a number of political parties adhering to xenophobic slogans in their election campaigns". Slogans such as "Russia for Russians" and "Russian faces in the Russian capital" were increasingly popular, they said.

In June this year, public figures from St Petersburg wrote an open letter to President Vladimir Putin warning him of the rise of neo-Nazism in Russia. "You certainly know that in the last years along with traditional anti-Semitism and xenophobia another kind of racism is thriving in Russia," they wrote. "The racism of Nazi nature is the ideological basis for crimes sweeping over our country."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
News
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
News
The spider makes its break for freedom
VIDEO
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
books
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Customer Support Technician

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Waterlooville based softwa...

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

Recruitment Genius: Associate Sales Consultant

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Associate Sales Consultant i...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot