Police in Yakutia detain several people for acts against migrant workers, following a rape case that has put the region on edge
Police in Yakutsk detained the organizer of an unscheduled protest on March 17 against migrant workers, after he used instant messengers to invite others to join his demonstration. A court later fined the man 20,000 rubles ($310) for organizing and staging the event without advance notice.
Police also detained a group of men who tried to intimidate local vegetable vendors. “The young men approached kiosks operated by ethnic Kyrgyz persons and encouraged them to shut down their businesses,” the city’s chief of police told reporters.
According to the news agency RIA Novosti, regional police officials reported the detention of another two local men in the Sakha Republic’s Aldansky District. One of these men reportedly filmed the other firing from an automatic weapon bearing the words “Yakutia rules!” Interfax cites another police report about the detention of a man who appears in another video circulating on social media that shows him leading a migrant worker at gunpoint down the street in Yakutsk, striking him repeatedly with the weapon. The suspect is being investigated for disorderly conduct.
The region’s police department denies rumors that three men from Central Asia were recently murdered in Yakutsk, as well as claims that 20 migrant workers were attacked and hospitalized.
Demonstrations against migrant workers started in Yakutsk after a Kyrgyz man was charged with kidnapping and raping a local woman. On March 17, roughly 200 people attended an unplanned protest in the city. The next day, the city’s mayor and the region’s governor hosted roughly 6,000 people for a town hall meeting, where they promised to crack down on illegal migrant workers, relying in part on massive police sweeps of local businesses.
In addition to the anti-migrant protests, there have also been reports of threats and attacks against migrant workers in Yakutsk, and many of these people have started staying home from work. On March 19, between 80 and 90 buses missed their morning routes in a city where more than half the bus drivers are foreigners from Central Asia. Many local vegetable and fruit stands, which are often operated by Central Asian migrant workers, have also closed. A source close to the Mayor’s Office told the magazine RBC that migrant workers aren’t hiding from racist thugs so much as scrambling to get their migration and sanitation paperwork in order, before the city unleashes the police inspections promised by the governor.
Nevertheless, Yakutsk Kyrgyz diaspora group leader Zhazbek Bekboliev announced on March 19 that he’s been informed of violent attacks against at least five of his compatriots in the area.
“We’re also to blame here. The instant they start earning a little money, our youths immediately start drinking and hitting the streets, bringing disgrace on us. In the past three months, this is already the second rape incident, and recently a girl was stabbed to death. And the people just couldn’t take it anymore. We’d react the same way,” Bekboliev told Radio Liberty’s Kyrgyz service.
Bekboliev says about 10,000 migrants from Kyrgyzstan are currently working in Yakutia (roughly 3,000 more than are officially registered). After the first protests in Yakutsk, the regional government summoned a delegation of Kyrgyz state officials, who flew in for talks with Fyodor Borisov, the governor’s chief of staff. Borisov reportedly stressed the need for Kyrgyzstan to work more closely with its citizens living in Yakutia, to ensure that migrant workers observe the local laws.