Wrenching Tales From Russia’s Rust Belt
YEKATERINBURG, Russia — Before he began appearing at film festivals and collecting literary awards, when he was just another resourceful punk from Russia’s rust belt, Vassily Sigarev had a job delivering prostitutes to their customers in the concrete-slab housing blocks of Nizhny Tagil.
The recent murder of a prominent Muslim activist has sent ripples of fear throughout Moscow’s Muslim community, offering a reminder that Russia remains plagued by ethnically motivated killings. Yet the slaying reveals several, perhaps borderline optimistic, forecasts for minority life in Moscow. Observers point to the marked decrease in hate crime, a result of better police work, and the outpouring of public grief, matched by the authorities’ sympathy, as signs that ethnic tensions in Russia may be less grim than they often seem.
Metin Mekhtiyev, a 33-year-old former manager at Moscow’s Islamic Cultural Center, was found stabbed to death early last week near the Belorussky train station, his face and neck brutally slashed. Investigators are treating the murder as a standard mugging, citing his stolen money and cell phone, yet Mekhtiyev’s friends and former colleagues disagree. They say Mekhtiyev’s was a clear-cut, ethnically motivated murder that bore all the hallmarks of a hate crime committed by ultranationalists.
The Associated Press
MINSK, Belarus — Belarus arrested three top opposition figures Wednesday who were on their way to Brussels to meet with European Union officials, a move certain to further fuel tensions with the bloc.
The 27-nation EU already has imposed sanctions on authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime over its crackdown on dissent and recalled its ambassadors from the ex-Soviet nation, which is wedged between Russia and Poland.
Those arrested were Anatoly Lebedko, the head of Belarus’ largest opposition United Civil Party; Sergei Kalyakin, the leader of the Fair World leftist party; and Alexander Otroshchenkov, a leading activist of the European Belarus group.
Two once-doomed California gray whales splashed with new life Wednesday as a pair of powerful Soviet icebreakers leading a massive rescue effort bashed through the last frozen barrier to their escape to the open sea.
“The whales are ready to get out of there,” said Cindy Lowry of Greenpeace as the two Soviet icebreaking ships cracked their way through the wall of ice at the edge of the arctic floe trapping the two young giant mammals.The whales, whose dramatic plight has set off an extravagant international rescue effort in the icy arctic, responded by vigorously swimming around their latest breathing hole.
“They are swimming up and down, really energetic,” Lowry said. She said the whales were “so active they were causing waves.”
The 20,241-pound Admiral Makarov, an 11-story icebreaker, and the 13,514-ton Vladimir Arseniev, an icebreaking cargo vessel flying an American flag alongside the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union, began their attack on the icy ridge Tuesday afternoon.
They moved through the ice with such force that Lowry and another Greenpeace member keeping an all-night vigil beside the whales were afraid the huge icebreakers would plow right into them. But the threat turned out to be illusory.
The Soviets battered their way through the ice until 3 a.m. Alaska Daylight Time (5 a.m. MDT), getting within a half-mile to a mile of the whales.
Other rescue teams planned to fire up the 11-ton one-of-a-kind Archimedean screw tractor sometime after the Alaska sunrise to finish clearing a 16-foot-wide path for the whales to a 220-mile channel that will eventually take them to the open sea. The tractor’s pontoons are equipped with screw-like ridges that cut through the ice.
ANTI-GAY LAW USED FOR 1ST TIME AGAINST PROTESTERS
Published: April 11, 2012 (Issue # 1703)
St. Petersburg’s notorious anti-gay law was put into practice for the first time last week, when two men arrested Saturday during a demo near Oktyabrsky Concert Hall were charged with “promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors.”
Out of eight protesters, two were detained because the policemen found their posters to be illegal under the new law, in force since March 17. They were also charged with failing to obey a police officer’s lawful orders — an offense punishable by up to 15 days in prison.
Igor Kochetkov, chair of the LGBT rights group Vykhod (Coming Out), held a poster reading “No to hushing up hate crimes against gays and lesbians,” while Sergei Kondrashov’s placard read “Our family friend is a lesbian, my wife and I love and respect her. Her way of life is normal, just like ours, and her family is socially equal to ours.”