07MOSCOW3255, VARIED EXPLANATIONS FOR STAVROPOL ETHNIC CLASHES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW3255 2007-07-03 13:08 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO2329
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #3255/01 1841308
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031308Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1817
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 4269
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2229
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2526

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 003255 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KSOC TBIO RS
SUBJECT: VARIED EXPLANATIONS FOR STAVROPOL ETHNIC CLASHES 
 
 
MOSCOW 00003255  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: During an embassy visit on June 19-20, 
leaders of the Stavropol city and regional government, 
political parties, NGOs, and ethnic groups gave conflicting 
explanations for last month's mob violence between Russians 
and Chechens in the city center.  Many of the explanations 
suggest both a conscious effort to conceal dirty laundry, and 
a widely-held belief in conspiracy theories. While there may 
be some truth in the different versions making the rounds, 
the most likely cause -- namely that ethnic tensions between 
ethnic Russians and people from the Caucasus exist near the 
surface and sometimes boil over -- remains unaddressed and 
threatens to erupt again in the near future. End summary. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
Ethnic Tension and Mob Violence in Stavropol 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) On May 25, a Chechen resident of Stavropol was 
killed during a brawl between Russians and Chechens outside a 
gambling hall in the city's industrial district.  On June 3 
(in what appears to be a completely unrelated incident), two 
Russian students were found stabbed to death in the city 
center.  Rumors spread that this had been a revenge killing 
by the Chechens, and on the evenings of June 4 and 5, 
approximately 700 young men and teenagers, some with banners 
and signs with slogans like "Chechens go home!" gathered in 
the central square.  After drowning out attempts by Stavropol 
Mayor Kuzmin and the acting Vice Governor to address and calm 
the crowd, participants in the demonstration marched out of 
the square and smashed shops and cars (some with drivers in 
them).  Local leaders and police were taken by surprise and 
were slow to react.  Within three days, the authorities were 
able to return the situation to normal, but only after 
extensive national media coverage. 
 
3. (SBU) During our visit to the city in late June we saw 
little evidence of the violence, except boarded up windows on 
some shops.  There were some signs of ethnic tension: In and 
near the city center, we observed nationalist and neo-fascist 
graffiti and bumper stickers.  In the government buildings, 
there were few signs of non-Russians, and ethnic minorities 
had only token representation in the Kray Duma.  However, we 
also saw plenty of examples of interethnic couples walking 
hand-in-hand through the parks, friends having dinner 
together, and many successful small businesses operated by 
minorities. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
The Government: There Are No Ethnic Problems in Stavropol 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
 
4. (SBU) The Governor's office was at pains to highlight the 
interethnic character and harmony of Stavropol Kray.  "More 
than 100 nationalities have lived here together in peace for 
more than 150 years," said Aleksey Bednov, the governor's 
representative in Moscow.  When the two Russian students were 
murdered in May, he said, the mass media spread rumors of a 
Chechen revenge killing.  Stavropol Duma Deputy and local 
leader of the LDPR, Ilya Drozdor added, "These rumors were 
untrue, of course, but because that is how the Chechens are, 
the people readily believed it."  (Note: video footage of the 
murder of the Russian students showed a Slavic-looking 
assailant.) 
 
5. (SBU) Mayor Kuzmin said that the fighting in Lenin Square 
(in the city center, adjacent to the governor's office and 
the Kray Duma) was simply a case of students "blowing off 
steam" at the end of the school year.  He said that there was 
in fact no ethnic character to the fighting, and that the 
mass media had sensationalized the story.  He claimed that 
while the scale of the fighting took them by surprise, the 
fact that there had been no fighting before or since proved 
that there is not an ethnic tension problem in the city. 
 
------------------- 
Conspiracy Theories 
------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) Some leaders did admit that there was a problem, but 
blamed it on "outsiders" who were stirring up troubles for 
their own ends.  In a meeting of the Stavropol Kray 
Commission of Nationalities, the local Ossetian leader Alan 
Misikov presented a spirited defense of interethnic harmony 
in the Kray which was now threatened by outsiders.  "There 
were 14 provocateurs who came from Moscow to start this 
trouble.  They pretended to be Russian nationalists and tried 
to whip up racial hatred, but they failed."  When pressed for 
details, he claimed that, "these provocateurs, who escaped 
 
MOSCOW 00003255  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
back to Moscow, were sent by (the Other Russia's) Kasparov, 
Kasyanov, and the others, and funded from London." 
 
7. (SBU) The Head of the Governor's Commission on 
Nationalities, Vasiliy Shn
yukov agreed with Misikov and added 
that the authorities were investigating to find the identity 
of the provocateurs.  He said that to control the situation, 
he and the Governor had called together leaders of several 
ethnic groups and told them to "get control of their people" 
and warned them not to be used by outsiders.  Shnyukov told 
us that the leaders of the Chechen and Russian communities 
were regrettably unable to attend the meeting, but that they 
were full and willing participants in ensuring that there was 
peace among the groups.  The leader of the Dagestani group 
clearly did not agree with this explanation, but was abruptly 
cut off by Shnyukov when he began to speak. 
 
8. (SBU) Conspiracy theories were not confined to the 
government.  The local leader of the NGO "Golos," Vasiliy 
Krasulya, proposed a different conspiracy theory, claiming 
that, "the Kremlin sent agents down to agitate and provoke 
the Chechens and instigate these clashes as a pretext to a 
clampdown on dissent.  Their goal is to get people accustomed 
to these types of measures, to make these techniques familiar 
and acceptable."  He noted that the demonstrations in the 
square on June 4 and 5 were not authorized, and that any 
other such demonstration lacking official sanction would have 
been quickly dispersed. (Biographical note: Krasulya, who was 
earlier active in Yabloko and an editor-in-chief of a 
Stavropol newspaper, successfully appealed his conviction for 
defaming Governor Chernogorov.  In February 2007, the 
European Court of Human Rights overturned his conviction and 
awarded him EUR 4000 in damages.) 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
A Simpler Explanation: Interethnic Tensions Boiled Over 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
9. (SBU) Comment: The simplest and most likely explanation is 
that there is indeed a fair amount of ethnic tension in the 
region between the 80 percent Russian majority and the 
multitude of Caucasian and other ethnic groups in the Kray, 
and that this tension boiled over in a mixture of ethnic 
hatred, rumor, drunkenness, and teenage exuberance.  While 
things are quiet now, the probability of renewed violence 
remains, especially since there appears to be no government 
plan to address the root causes of the problem. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

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