UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance completes his visit to Russia

Mr. Doudou Diène, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, who visited Moscow and Saint Petersburg last week, thinks that ideological vacuum is a major cause of growing racism and xenophobia in Russia

Moscow, 16 June 2006

At the press-conference devoted to the preliminary results of his visit to Russia Mr. Doudou Diène shared his impressions and initial conclusions on the state of racism and xenophobia in the Russian society. Following his meetings with the government, NGOs and Russian ethnic minorities, Mr. Diene will prepare a report that will serve as a basis for the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council to the Russian Government.

The major reason for the Special Rapporteur’s visit to Moscow was to respond to the signs of growing aggression, racism and xenophobia in the country, and the image of Russia projected in this connection by foreign media. “My aim is to study the situation in this area. The Special Rapporteur is not here to solve the country’s problems. Our goal is to help the country understand this problem and prevent further development of this terrible phenomenon that can pose a threat to democracy in Russia if timely measures are not taken,” said Mr. Diène.

Is racism a threat to Russia? Mr. Diène did not give a definite answer: “There is a dynamics of growing racist feelings which in fact mirrors the same dynamics at the global level.” However, Mr. Diène noted that in Russia there is a number of serious conditions for further spread of racism, including socio-economic situation, lack of understanding of the problem at the government level, deeper cultural and ideological roots, as well as criminalization of ethnic minorities supported by Russian media. Mr. Diène called dangerous politicization of racism, creation of racist political parties and impunity of those who commit acts of violence stemming from racial intolerance.

Mr. Diene believes that the main problem in Russia is lack of a national programme to promote tolerance, international friendship and building of a multicultural society.

The Special Rapporteur’s major recommendation is to recognize the existence of racism in the country and start combating it by reviewing the regulatory framework, creating effective interaction and response mechanisms based on centuries-old multicultural, multinational and multiconfessional traditions of the Russian society.