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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bell's Bar Tries to Turn Away Black African Patron

A man from a southern African country was turned away from a Moscow bar, he and his friends say, because of his skin color.

The bar, Bell's, denies it bars blacks, but acknowledges that it suspects Africans of being drug dealers, whom it is trying to keep out.

The African and four white American friends f all in their mid-20s and 30s f went to Bell's last week to celebrate a birthday. The security guard let the four whites pass but stopped the African, who was the last to enter.

"The guard blocked his way, put his hand in front of him," said Neil Greer, one of the man's friends who was with him Oct. 7. Dan Mackler, another friend, said the guard pushed the black man.

Greer said he asked the guard what was wrong, but got no immediate answer. "I asked, 'It is because he is black, isn't it?'" Greer said.

The African, a sales representative for a multinational company who asked that his name and country of origin be withheld, said the guard told him it was the bar's policy not to admit blacks.

The guard eventually told the men that the bar had had problems with black patrons, specifically Nigerians, dealing drugs on the premises, Greer and the African said.

The men said this infuriated the group of friends and they called for a manager, who apologized and offered them all free drinks for the rest of the night. But they refused to enter the bar.

Sergei Chukin, who runs the bar on Bolshaya Polyanka Ulitsa, said Wednesday that Bell's had recently started to turn away undesirable customers.

"About two months ago, we noticed several people f they were black f they were not caught red-handed, but they were dealing drugs in the bar," Chukin said in a telephone interview. The guards, he said, were told to make the control "stronger."

"We don't have anything against black or mulatto people f just people who act inappropriately," he said.

The African, 26, said that during the nearly seven years that he has lived in Russian he has "experienced thousands of racial incidents," but had never had trouble at a bar or restaurant that catered to expatriates. He had eaten lunch several times at Bell's, most recently several months ago, without encountering any problems.

Moscow has seen a growing number of racially motivated attacks in the past year. In May, the U.S. Embassy warned Americans of African and Asian descent to be careful after a black U.S. Marine was badly beaten by neo-Nazi skinheads at a crowded outdoor music market in Filyovsky Park.

Just a few weeks before that, as many as 20 skinheads were seen beating two young Asian women in an alley near the Arbat. People from India, Kenya and Nigeria also reportedly have been beaten and harassed on Moscow's streets.

But the authorities have done little to combat racism, and victims are reluctant to turn to police, who they say can be expected to show little sympathy. Moscow police are regularly seen stopping darker-skinned people on the streets and in the metro to check their documents.

"Here, I watch my back all the time," the African man said.