Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Russian Officials Blame US for Roma Protest in Penza Oblast, Local People Blame Police and Local Officials

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 17 – The presidential plenipotentiary for Volga District of which Penza oblast is a part and the governor of that region say that fake news put out by US-backed groups was behind the clash between Roma and local Russians in the city of Chemodanovka, but local residents, Roma and Russian alike, blame local police for failing to intervene quickly.

            The charges of fake news originating with the Americans have been repeated on central Russian television; the complaints of local people have not gotten similar attention, although they are beginning to percolate on Facebook and in some Russian news services. (For a useful summary with good sources, see newsru.com/russia/17jun2019/gypsy_penz.html.)

            At present, the several hundred Roma have left their encampment, except for 15 who remain in jail. Some say their departure was orchestrated by officials. Others say they simply fled in order to escape further violence and arrests. And still a third group says they will be back as soon as things calm down. 

            Police continue to patrol the entire city under what officials call “the Vulcan Plan,” and the city administration has promised to open a police office in what had been the Roma encampment, something that the Roma had long asked for but hadn’t received, as a result of which police seldom have come when called.

            Despite these actions, anti-Roma passions remain high in the Penza Oblast; and official suggestions that the Roma are in league with the ultimate outside agitator, the US and its “information diversionists,” is unlikely to calm things. Indeed, by playing up this angle, Moscow television may very well spark more attacks on Roma elsewhere in the Russian Federation. 

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