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November 12, 2019
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Russia: Youth conflict sparks bloodshed, attempted pogrom against Roma has fatal outcome

18.6.2019 7:44
The village of Chemodanovka, Penza Oblast. (PHOTO:  collage by ROMEA)
The village of Chemodanovka, Penza Oblast. (PHOTO: collage by ROMEA)

On Thursday, 13 June in the evening hours in the village of Chemodanovka, Penza Oblast, a violent clash took place involving hundreds of local residents. The cause was apparently a conflict among Romani and Russian youth at a fishpond, as a consequence of which the local Russians set out to deliver their own violent punishment to the alleged culprits, who were Romani.

One of the Russian attackers died and four others were injured during the conflict, one of them seriously, after the Romani people used weapons to defend themselves. Russian national media did not begin reporting on the case until about 1 000 residents of Chemodanovka blocked the national highway on Friday, 14 June.

The locals were attempting to draw attention to the conflict and achieve clarification about the murder of 33-year-old Vladimir Grushin, who had lost his life the day before when, along with about 200 other local Russians, he set out to attack the Romani people who had allegedly bothered Russian girls and attempted to rape one of them. "The Romani people used knives, axes and rifles. They threw anything they could get their hands on. They stabbed one of our guys with a knife and cracked the skull of another with a rock," news server Newsru.com quoted an unnamed participant in the brawl as saying.

In addition to the fatality, four other people were harmed during the conflict. One of them was subsequently hospitalized in an intensive care unit.

The case was first classified as negligent homicide, but in the interim was reassessed as murder and taken up by federal detectives at the instruction of Alexandra Bastrykina, the head of Russia's Investigation Committee, which is the counterpart of the FBI in the United States of America. On Saturday, 15 June, Bastrykina announced her decision to take over the investigation to the Russian media.

In the meantime, police interrogated 174 participants in the brawl and arrested three suspects on 15 June, followed by arresting 12 more participants in the conflict on Sunday, 16 June. A crisis management staff is now working in the village, led by the Governor of Penza Oblast, who is doing his best to calm the situation.

Police officers are patrolling the streets of the village now and local residents are remaining indoors. The head of the Romani association in the Penza Oblast has expressed his condolences to the bereaved relatives of the deceased and promised to cooperate with police.

"We do not want any conflicts and we want the guilty parties punished. This conflict must be brought to an end," Romani community member Andrea Ogly said.

The head of a nationally-profiled Romani association, Nadezhda Demetrova, expressed her outrage to the NSN television station over that fact that most media outlets were not reporting that "it was Russian people who broke into the Romani people's abode, sparking the brawl and looking to lynch them." All of what she called the "ugliness" had been provoked, according to her, by what was merely a dispute between Romani and Russian children at the local fishpond.

zda, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Demonstrace, murders, nepokoje, Russia



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