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City news
Prosecutors Asked to Probe Ultranationalist Newspaper
07.30.2004 12:59



By Vladimir Kovalev


St. Petersburg city prosecutors are being asked to investigate an ultra-nationalist newspaper that printed articles identified by slain city racism expert Nikolai Girenko as breaking laws on inciting racial hatred.

A statement by a nationalist group called Russian Republic, which claimed responsibility for Girenko's murder, said his evidence about the newspaper's articles was one of the reasons why the group had sentenced him to death.

Girenko, head of the St. Petersburg Commission for the Rights of National Minorities, was shot through the door of his city apartment on June 17.

Ruslan Linkov, head of the city branch of the Democratic Russia party, has asked prosecutors to investigate newspaper Nashe Otechstvo, or Our Fatherland, which Linkov says is openly anti-Semitic.

"On the first page of the paper, right under its logo there are the words that appear to be the slogan of the National Mighty Party of Russia, which says 'National Mighty Party of Russia is the party of those who are ready to fight against the Jewish yoke,'" Linkov wrote in his letter to prosecutors.

"The first column on page 2 of the paper contains an assertion that [President Vladimir] Putin chooses [members of the government] depending on whether they are Jewish or Freemasons' and there is an assertion that 'citizen Putin was appointed to be Russian President by a Zionist Council'" he added.

It is Linkov's second attempt to get city prosecutors to clamp down on the paper.

"Last month I sent them a letter, but the prosecutor's office redirected it to the local office of the Culture and Press Ministry, which has done nothing about it," Linkov said Wednesday in an interview. "Now I have filed another request to the prosecutor's office asking it to open a criminal case. According to the law they have to initiate a case or give a reason to refuse. We'll see how it goes."

Previous examinations of articles published in the paper have resulted in Nashe Otechstvo editor Yevgeny Shchekotikhin being prosecuted.

Launched in January 1993 by Shchekotikhin, a St. Petersburg-based publisher, Nashe Otechestvo has a circulation of 3,500 copies. It is not clear how frequently the paper is published. It prints no contact information except for a mailbox of the state postal service. Shchekotickhin could not be reached for comment.

In 1997, an investigation by the prosecutor's office found that Shchekotikhin had incited racial hatred in his publication, but he was pardoned under an amnesty issued in connection with the 50th anniversary of World War II. In 1998, a city court issued an official warning to Shchekotikhin after examining another article published in Nashe Otechestvo.

Girenko provided expert evaluations in both cases.

"Girenko N.M., a dedicated and incorrigible enemy of the Russian people, has been convicted and will suffer the maximum penalty, execution," says Conviction No. 1 issued by the self-styled military court of the Russian Republic, posted on pro-Kremlin web site.

The statement is dated June 12.

The conviction was signed by Vladimir Popov, who calls himself the supreme leader of the Russian Republic. In an interview given to local media, Popov said the statement was merely a sentence and the organization had no connection to the killing. He was, nevertheless, glad that someone had carried out the sentence, he added.

The City Prosecutor's Office has said the sentence would be used in the investigation of Girenko's murder, but no one has yet been charged with the murder.

Almost a week after Linkov's second request was issued, the prosecutor's office department that deals with cases of national hatred said it had not received it.

"I don't know what would be done with that. I have not received anything like this yet," said Sergei Zelentsov, the city prosecutor's senior assistant, said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

Zelentsov refused to comment further.

"Prosecutors could say the reason they are not active enough is that the current legislation on the issue is not perfect," Yuly Rybakov, a former State Duma lawmaker who dealt with human rights issues at the Duma from 1993 to 2003, said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

"I remember that when we were filing draft amendments on the section on national hatred in the Criminal Code we faced constant resistance from both the Kremlin and the General Prosecutor's Office," he said.

Rybakov said authorities have succeeded in blurring the legislation with amendments that make it difficult to convict people of race-based crimes.

"The law doesn't give an exact definition of nationalism and national hatred," he said. "As for convictions, people can be prosecuted only for inciting someone to kill somebody and it has to be shown that the instigation was made to a specific killer."

"But I'm sure if somebody showed up on the street with a poster saying 'Kill the President,' the prosecutor's office would find legal reasons to detain that person immediately," Rybakov added.

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