Luhansk: Continuing run-ins between local residents and foreign nationals
Run-ins have become more frequent between Luhansk residents and people from the Caucuses, Central Asia and Africa. While the police deny any racial motivation, those defending the victims are convinced that they were targeted because of their ethnic origin, the BBC Ukrainian Service reports.
For a second week now the student campus of the Luhansk National University is being guarded by heightened police patrols. The students, mainly foreign nationals, are advised not to leave the hostel without good reason. The security measures follow the attack on students reported last week.
In the evening of 1 November thugs in medical masks and with bats smashed shop windows and caused damage to a kiosk selling shaurma (kebabs) [The BBC report says “several dozen”, however initial reports said around 15-25]. The kiosk belongs to Azerbaijanis and is close to the main part of the university. The assailants then moved to one of the 9-storey hostels and beat up foreign students, four of whom ended up in hospital.
According to the police, they have already detained several suspected organizers of the attack. The lawyer of one of the victims, Ihor Chudovsky, asserts that all those detained are well-known martial arts sportsmen (Muay Thai) who train out in one of Luhasnk’s sports clubs. The main suspect is a trainer. He is in custody while the others under a signed undertaking not to abscond. The lawyer says that according to information he has received, the case may be reclassified from “hooliganism” to “incitement to inter-ethnic enmity” and passed to the SBU [Security Service]. He says that straight after the attack on the kiosk selling ethnic dishes, foreign students were attacked. He says that the assailants shouted “Foreigners, get out!”
Over the last month there have also been two fights in Luhansk involving one of them. One of them, which resulted in the death of a Luhansk resident, was, , local observers say, the cause of the further conflict.
One incident was near one of the Luhansk night clubs. A foreign student from Central Asia wounded two Luhansk residents with a knife. One died.
Soon after this a local organization “Luhantsi” held two pickets under the slogan “Against foreigner lawlessness” and “Against Shaurma”
The second was near the kiosk which was smashed up a few days later. However the leader of Luhantsi, Serhiy Kovalenko denies involvement in the attack, saying they didn’t call on anyone to destroy kiosks and beat up foreign students. All issues, he says, need to be resolved in a lawful fashion. He has though been summoned for questioning as a witness over the attack.
The latest violence involving foreign nationals was during the early hours of 5 November. In the entrance to an apartment block where two African students are renting a flat, there was a conflict with some Ukrainian national students. One of them slashed four people from Africa with a broken bottle. The students were detained by police who are investigating.
After this, the student self-government body of the Alchevsk local university where several hundred foreign nationals are studying, decided to create a volunteer guard to protect the foreign students. Pavlo Lysyansky, honorary head of the body stresses that the foreign students have the same rights as others. He also points out that the students bring income for the university.
Meanwhile foreign students are discussing whether to move to other universities, or leave the country altogether. One Azerbaijani student, Arif Sadigov says that he will probably leave Luhansk. Before the attack all was well, he explains, but now he’s always looking over his shoulder.