Over the weekend a Russian man was murdered by an immigrant, sparking race riots in the southern district of Biryulyovo. The narrative of what happened during the riots can be read here, and an analysis of the back story of the racial tensions in Russia can be read here.
This article is a translation from the pro-Kremlin Izvestia. It is an interview with a former mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, who believes that the establishment of a visa regime, and other reforms, could have prevented this crisis. Other Russian politicians, such as opposition leader Alexei Navalny, have also called for new visa regimes. – Ed.
Ex-mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov speaks about the events in Biryulyovo, the reaction of the authorities and the education of migrants.
Yuri Luzhkov, a former Moscow Mayor, said that the authorities’ response to the events in Biryulyovo should be harsh, including introduction of the visa regime for migrants and strengthening criminal liability for officials who do not want to respond to the complaints of the Muscovites, sending them some runaround replies. In an interview with Izvestia, Yuri Luzhkov said that he considered legitimate the reaction of Biryulevo residents to the murder of 25-year-old Egor Shcherbakov, and that the authorities should target criminals, not ethnic groups:
– Do you think that a visa regime for migrants would help restore order ?
The visa regime should definitely be introduced! Except for the citizens of Kazakhstan and Belarus, as to Ukraine, it’s a complex issue that needs to be discussed. As to the other states, it’s definitely needed! Once I strongly objected to the removal of the residence regime in Moscow, but then I was rudely corrected by the State Duma and the law enforcement agencies, even the prosecutors issued an official warning to that effect. But I think that if the residence rule was not abolished back then, events like in Biryulyovo wouldn’t happen in Moscow now, because this arrangement worked fine for decades. But Biryulyovo residents must be really fed up that they took to the streets. Thank God, when I was in charge nothing like that ever happened in Moscow! It is clear that something is missing and the measures taken now, that is tighter controls over the marketplaces, more strict immigration rules, are totally appropriate and essential.
– Do you think that the residents of Biryulyovo behaved appropriately, when they took to the streets and started to trash the “Biryuza” shopping center and the vegetable market?
The reaction of the frustrated residents was very strong. And I think it could be expected. That young man (Egor Shcherbakov. – Izvestia) was walking his female friend home, when those guys from the South started to pick on her. He wanted to protect her, but they stabbed him to death. Of course, what kind of reaction would you expect from the local residents? The society is fed up with immigrants from the southern regions, with the way they behave in this city. You see, we have to educate people. We have to explain to them that if you come to Russia, to Moscow, or any city where the Russian culture is predominant, you can’t shoot in the air from automatic rifles at weddings or other celebrations, not even with blank ammunition. This is not how we do it here, and Muscovites are quite understandably outraged by such behavior.
– And how can we educate migrants ?
We used to have the Ministry of Nationalities, and it was quite effective. Then it was disbanded, and it was decided that we did not have inter-ethnic problems. This, just like the abolition of the registration rules and procedures, was another serious mistake. The main responsibility of the city authorities and the police is to control the residential sector. After all, these people, both legal and illegal immigrants, live in our houses, in our city. Or in shelters, the addresses of which are also well known. Migration can be controlled, it can work effectively, unless, of course, personal benefit comes first for those officials, preventing them from doing their job properly.
– Mohammed Tolboev, the president of “New Cheryomushki” CJSC, where the vegetable warehouse is located in Zapadnoye Biryulyovo, says that the warehouse was a joint project of Moscow and the Dagestani authorities and it opened 20 years ago. Do you remember why it was created?
To be honest, I don’t. I don’t think it matters, though. Because that rally in Biryulyovo is a problem that is not related to the vegetable warehouse. It is a problem of corruption within government agencies, primarily law enforcement. There must be a constant fight against the criminals, not with people from the Caucasus or some particular ethnic groups. In Moscow, there are 646 nationalities, of which 128 are major ethnic communities, and the worst possible development would be an inter-ethnic strife in the capital or in the country. The country will just cease to exist! We must differentiate between gangsters and just simple migrants, and do so decisively. Otherwise there would be horrors of the Black Hundreds [The Black Hundreds were early-20th century Russian nationalists known for their anti-semetism, xenophobia, and their pogroms – Ed.), anybody could be subject to violence not because he broke the law, but just because he grew a black beard.
– But can we prevent this?
All the services should work, and work together seamlessly. The migration service, the police, local and health authorities. That should be a joint work, but it must be done with “clean hands”. But when those hands are getting dirty with the ruble, there is no struggle for the rule of law. In fact, what happened now, an outrageous act by migrants who killed that young man, triggered a harsh and totally justified response from the residents of Moscow.
– Residents of Biryulyovo complained repeatedly that the mess at the vegetable warehouse had been going on for a long time, but they received some meaningless replies in return.
It is necessary to address every complaint, to find out what exactly each official has done. And if he hasn’t done anything, he shouldn’t just be kicked out with pockets full of money, he must be punished for failure to act, if necessary criminally prosecuted.