An ugly dust-up in Moscow, seemingly provoked by racial hatred, has landed a migrant laborer from Tajikistan in the hospital and threatens to leave him blind in one eye.
On the evening of April 8, Tajik citizen Sulaiman Saidov was targeted in an apparently unprovoked assault that culminated in him being shot four times with an Osa traumatic handgun.
Saidov’s cousin, Dilshod Abdurahmonov, told EurasiaNet.org that the incident started when the attacker approached Saidov on a metro train and made a threatening remark: “Either you disappear or it will be the end of you.” Judging the man to be drunk, Saidov, who was in a metro carriage with another one of his cousins, 19-year old Muhammadjon Hakimov, ignored the warning.
“But then suddenly the man pulled out a pistol and fired one shot. This all happened inside the carriage. And then he wanted to shoot another guy — Muhammadjon Hakimov, who ran away in fear. When Sulaiman stood his ground, he was shot again twice in the head. When he left the carriage, the [attacker] followed him and in the fight that ensued he shot [Saidov] one more time in the stomach,” Abdurahmonov told EurasiaNet.org.
Abdurahmonov said his cousin’s is serious but stable, but doctors have confirmed that Saidov will likely be blind in one eye.
“We have to have an operation that will cost 120,000 rubles ($1,800). But there are no guarantees they can save his eye. His parents don’t know what has happened. They are elderly and constantly unwell,” Abdurahmonov said.
Saidov has received some support from the embassy of Tajikistan and a pledge of further help from Civic Assistance Committee, a Russian nongovernment organization that assists migrants.
A 60-year old Muscovite, Sergei Tsaryov, has reportedly been detained on suspicion of instigating the attack and been placed under two months detention pending investigations. He is facing charges of attempted murder.
Abdurahmonov said the family also wants to see Tsaryov face charges of racially motivated assault.
“Investigators want to fudge this and make out that the weapon was used as a result of an argument. But that wasn’t it at all. In reality this all stemmed from ethnic issues and hatred toward migrants,” he said.
There is a long history of racially motivated violence in Russia toward people from the Caucasus and Central Asia, so this instance could well fit into that pattern.
Still, last year did see a considerable reduction in racist violence in Russia, according to the Sova center, which closely monitors the issue. One explanation offered by Sova is that police have intensified their pressure on extremist nationalist movements, possibly in an effort to minimize their scope for reabsorbing returnees from fighting in Ukraine into their ranks and thereby posing a threat to political stability.
Authorities in Russia are particularly eager to avoid a repeat of the ethnic unrest sparked in the Moscow district of Biryulyovo in 2013 following the murder of a 25-year old man by a citizen of Azerbaijan.
That anxiety appears to have motivated the state media blackout on the grisly murder of a five-year old girl in Moscow at the hands of an allegedly mentally disturbed Uzbek nanny.
"You know that the media around the world often give shots or show pictures of various tragic or horrific accidents. Such examples are many. In this way certain media express their position in society," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments cited by International Business Times. "In any case, it is not something that should be covered in the media. And here I fully agree with the decision of these channels.”
Still, Sova notes that Russian far-right group still tried to capitalize on this killing, focusing on the nanny’s ethnic and religious background.
“Nationalists participated in a spontaneous action in memory of the killed girl on March 1 near the Oktyabrskoe Pole metro stop in Moscow. The vast majority of participants simply laid flowers without further action or display of symbols. However, a few young people showed up with ribbons in the color of the ‘imperial’ flag, and demanded ‘tightening of the rules of residency for migrants in Russia,’” Sova reported in its monthly bulletin.
What is known of the attack on Saidov suggests a random incident, but one that unconsciously taps into simmering concerns about the presence of foreign laborers in Russia. With the country’s economy in dismal shape and unlikely to recover soon, resentment fed by the perception that foreign workers are taking away jobs and depressing salaries is only set to fester, despite attempts by the government to ignore the issue.
In an unfortunate coincidence, yet another migrant laborer was victim of an attack on April 9. Luchenbek Turaev, whom Russian media have identified only as a 19-year old man from Central Asia, was shot with a traumatic pistol while he was painting a fence in Moscow.
“I was just painting the fence when somebody hit me. I couldn’t even tell what. The boss called an ambulance and they took me away [for treatment],” Turaev told LifeNews television station.
LifeNews reported that the attacker appears to have fired on Turaev because he was unhappy that workers were painting the fence right underneath his balcony.
News website Lenta.ru reported that this attacker too has been arrested.