Staunton, October 12 – A decade ago there were a large number of hate crimes in Russia, primarily directed at immigrants; now, there are far fewer, not because Russians have become more tolerant but rather because the authorities have cracked down on such cases and reduced the number willing to engage in them, Aleksandr Verkhovsky says.
Many groups that promoted hate attacks have disappeared or been marginalized, with their leaders under arrest, gone to ground or having emigrated and potential new members not showing up because they are not willing to take the risks increased punishment imposes, the head of the SOVA center says (jewish.ru/ru/interviews/articles/194394/).
“It is possible that something different will come in replacement of the present right radicals,” he continues, but it is not yet on the radar screen.
As a member of the Presidential Council of Human Rights, Verkhovsky has often been criticized for working closely with the authorities. But someone committed to the defense of human rights, as opposed to a member of the political opposition, because “human rights cannot be defended without the involvement of the state in which we live.”
He says that the Council has had little influence on Putin directly but does work closely with his aides in the Presidential Administration. And he says that in some cases, the rights activists have contributed to an improvement in the drafting and implementation of government legislation.
Verkhovsky says he feels deeply about those rights activists who have been attacked and even killed and takes these things personally: “In my biography,” he continues, “has been both day-to-day and government-promoted anti-Semitism.” Even now, he says, “Nazis regularly have come to my home.”
He says that despite some progress, he has few expectations that all the problems will be corrected or that new ones will not emerge.