Putin says to protect CIS guestworkers

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday promised to end the almost daily violent attacks in Moscow on migrant workers from the former Soviet states.

There has been a steady increase in attacks on dark-skinned foreigners in Russia in the last two years, especially on immigrants from the Central Asia and the Caucasus, a rise partially blamed on resurgent Russian nationalism under Putin.

Since February 1 unknown assailants have fatally stabbed six Kyrgyz, two Azeris, two Kabardino-Balkarians, one Uzbek and one Tajik in Moscow, according to data kept by the Sova Centre, a Russian group that monitors racist and nationalist activities.

In January there were six such murders in Moscow, Sova said on its Web site. Last year 67 people were killed and a further 632 seriously wounded in similar attacks nationwide.

Putin, speaking at the opening of an informal summit of leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), said Russia was prepared to fight xenophobia, intolerance and threats on its territory to citizens from those countries.

“We will do everything to make sure these criminals are found, tried and punished,” Putin said.

He said nearly all his fellow CIS presidents had raised the issue with him.

“Citizens in the CIS, including Russia, are now encountering a resurgence of xenophobia, intolerance and even threats to their lives,” Putin said.

The murders are strikingly similar. In each, a group of young men find, beat, stab and kill a lone non-Slavic person on the outskirts of Moscow, taking nothing, but sometimes videotaping the violence to post on the Internet, Sova said.

Putin, whose second term ends in May but who will likely remain as prime minister, said CIS citizens would be protected should they choose to work in Russia, as would Russians workers who felt threatened.

Workers from impoverished Soviet states can earn more money in Russia, particularly in the disproportionately affluent capital, than at home, and so come to work in construction and at manual labor jobs.

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