- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 December 13, 2002 

Uneasy Relations: Armenians in Russia await outcome of contentious trial

Armenian graves were vandalized last April in KrasnodarThe trial against skinheads charged with desecrating Armenian graves in Krasnodar, Russia, continues to be delayed, eight months after charges were brought.

More than 20 Russian citizens were charged with destroying 31 Armenian graves in the Slavyanskoe cemetery last April 17. Nine of the accused have appeared so far in the court of Kuban in sessions that began in August.

The Armenian newspaper Yerkramas reported that seven of the accused remain free, after signing documents agreeing to not leave the area. Two others have been held in custody.

The newspaper reported that the defendants initially admitted their guilt, then recanted, saying they were pressured by police into making implicating statements.

The hearings were first postponed so that one of the accused could be examined by a doctor. A second postponement occurred when one defendant did not appear in court.

The delays, says Armen Hovsepyan, a member of the Krasnodar branch of Armenians Union of Russia cause Armenians of Krasnodar to doubt the validity of the trial.

"The trial lasts over eight months, though all evidences of crime were obvious," Hovsepyan says. "It is time to bring the verdict. I am afraid that impunity would inflame the tensions against Caucasians in the region."

The Armenian Diaspora of Krasnodar (around 500,000) believed that the action of hooligans was provoked by the remark of the regional governor, who announced by local TV early in April that Krasnodar should be cleaned of people from the Caucasus.

They blame Alexander Tkachiov for his "anti-Armenians" politics, which they say were inherited form the previous Governor Nicolay Kondratenko.

On November 16 the ex-governor of Krasnodar, Kondratenko, said in a speech that more than 50 percent of schoolchildren in Adler (one of the seaside cities of Krasnodar region) are Armenians. "We Russians are losing Russia" he said.

Armenian graves were vandalized last April in KrasnodarHovsepyan says that migration control became tougher after Chechen terrorists took hostages in a Moscow theater in November, leading to about 200 deaths.

"The migration control is at every step," Hovsepyan says. "The police stop you in the street only because you are not Russian."

Hovsepyan , a native Krasnodar resident says that all Armenians take passports with them everywhere. At the same time he says that Krasnodar indeed faces a great flow of illegal migration. "The situation is stable, though Armenians, both citizens and illegal immigrants, feel the tensions while in transport, institutions or in the street."

The hearing of another case connected to anti-Armenian actions was recently heard in another Russian city of Krasnoarmeisk, where 150 Armenians make up a population of about 35,000.

There (50 kilometers north of Moscow), 20 Russians were arrested July 7 after 25 Armenians were beaten or injured. The incident was sparked by a fight between a Russian and an Armenian, in which the Russian was stabbed and spent several weeks in hospital.

Mariana Babayan, the second secretary of the Armenian Embassy in Moscow told ArmeniaNow that the Armenian community was watching the trial and says that it was fair.

"The verdict is that it was a domestic conflict between Armenians and Russians. The accused were free with condition not to leave the city."

"We have to admit that Hayk Sayan (accused in the stabbing) initiated the clash. He is in jail at present.

"Recently the delegation of the Embassy went to Krasnoarmeisk. The situation is stable and calm there. Armenians of Krasnoarmeisk could call us at any moment if there will be any troubles. The mayor of Krasnoarmeisk arrived at our invitation to celebrate Armenia's independence in September.

I can say than in Moscow Armenians are not oppressed. At least those who have citizenship or temporary registration."


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