Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Authorities Expect No Hate Crimes Will Taint G8

St. Petersburg, which has witnessed many attacks on African, Central Asian and other dark-skinned people in recent years, will be safe for everyone during the G8 summit, police said.

Thousands of officers, including reinforcements from the regions, will patrol the city through Monday. Police will also patrol dormitories where foreign students live and check documents more frequently, representatives of the African community said.

Authorities' assurances have prompted at least one advocate for dark-skinned people to question what officials have been doing for the past several months, as skinheads have ramped up the violence.

"The authorities can provide protection when they want to," said Gabriel Kotchofa, president of the Foreign Students Association in Russia. "That's the main conclusion to be made."

Pavel Klimovsky, an Interior Ministry spokesman, noted that the stepped up police presence cost more money. While Klimovsky did not provide any figures, he did say extra funds had been allocated for the police during the summit. Besides paying for extra officers working longer hours, Klimovsky said, officers brought in from the regions had to be fed while they were in the city.

Still, racist and xenophobic attacks remain a concern.

There were 137 racially motivated attacks, including 18 killings, in Russia from January to May of this year, according to the Sova Center, which monitors extremist activity. Twenty-four of those attacks, four of them killings, took place in St. Petersburg.

Francois-Xavier Tulikunkiko, chairman of the African Unity group in St. Petersburg, said most important for Africans and other non-Russian nationals in St. Petersburg, summit or no summit, was bringing the perpetrators of hate crimes to justice. That includes, he said, getting the authorities to recognize hate crimes as hate crimes -- not "hooliganism," a lesser charge officials often level against skinheads.

Ren-TV reported this month that the city was seeking hot dog and ice cream vendors with non-Slavic appearances to give St. Petersburg a more multicultural look. A spokeswoman for the St. Petersburg administration would not confirm the report.

Stefania Kulayeva, head of the Northwestern Center for Social and Legal Protection of Roma, offered a different assessment from Kotchofa's, saying the police were not doing enough to protect Gypsies and others from xenophobic and racist attacks. She cited neo-Nazi propaganda that, she said, was being openly sold in street kiosks.

"Two days ago, we were in a store and easily bought a CD called 'The Skinheads Are Coming,'" Kulayeva said. The album featured songs calling for the murder of migrants from the Caucasus and Jews, she added. "It doesn't look like the police are more worried about these things than usual, and they're usually not too worried," she said.

Gypsies and other migrants living in illegal settlements had been advised by police not to venture into St. Petersburg during the summit, Kulayeva said.

Klimovsky, of the Interior Ministry, said police had not warned anyone to stay out of the city. But he did note that St. Petersburg authorities had asked residents to look "neat" during the summit.