Staunton, August 10 – The Russian interior ministry says that fights among migrant workers and between them and others have increased dramatically in recent months and have spread from Moscow to St. Petersburg, Daghestan, and the Amur and Sverdlovsk oblasts. But immigrant rights groups say they have seen no evidence of an increase.
Indeed, Valentina Chupik, head of the immigrant rights group Tong Jahoni (Tajiki for “Morning of the World”), says that it is her impression that the situation around migrant workers has improved in recent weeks, raising the likelihood that outsiders are provoking the migrants to fight for their own reasons (rosbalt.ru/moscow/2021/08/10/1915476.html).
She says she draws that conclusion on the basis of the way in which groups of migrants are assembled, by Internet messaging rather than word of mouth as was the case in the past, by the fact that these messages are in Russian rather than in the native languages of those involved as was the case earlier, and by the desire of some to play up tensions with migrants in advance of the elections.
Such things happened before Duma elections in the past, she says; and both her organization and the embassies of the Central Asian countries from which most of the immigrant workers come are very much alive to the possibility that someone among the powers that be wants to distract the attention of Russians from their problems.
One reason that is particularly easy now is that migrants have been returning to Russia and in some cases taken jobs that ethnic Russians had been filling and in others moving into territories that the FSB earlier had declared “migrant free” unless the organs gave special permission.
Given that Vladimir Putin has said migrant workers must be encouraged rather than expelled unless they violate Russian laws, Chupik says, provoking migrant workers to participate in clashes and then charging them with hooliganism opens the way for the authorities to expel the immigrants, something quite popular with some Russians.
The Tong Jahoni leader says that in her opinion, both the fights and the way in which the interior ministry is hyping them is “simply an attempt to distract the attention of the population from real problems in advance of the elections” lest they focus on problems and vote for opposition candidates.