BISHKEK -- An incident of Russian police brutality against Kyrgyz migrant workers has prompted an official protest by Bishkek.
The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry Monday (December 16) summoned a Russian diplomat to complain about a December 12 police beating of Kyrgyz migrants in Khabarovsk, Russia.
The victims numbered 73 migrant workers in all, according to a December 14 report by 24.kg that cited members of the Kyrgyz diaspora. It is unclear whether all the victims were Kyrgyz, but the Kyrgyz government took up their cause.
At the meeting with the Russian diplomat, the Kyrgyz expressed their "vigorous protest of such actions, which were unlawful, took the form of gross physical force in excess of official powers, and were accompanied by verbal abuse against citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic", said the ministry in a statement.
The ministry called for "an objective review of the incident and the adoption of appropriate strict measures against the guilty parties".
The Russian Interior Ministry (MVD) promised to investigate, according to 24.kg.
Locked up and beaten
During the incident on December 12, Khabarovsk police officers raided a local bus garage and took the Central Asians, who were all bus drivers, to a jail. The police reportedly gave no explanation and ignored the Russian passports that some of the detainees had.
"For several hours, they [the Central Asians] were all brutally beaten with clubs," reported 24.kg, quoting members of the Kyrgyz diaspora. "They tore up the residence permits of some of them and then let them go. Several migrants ended up in the hospital."
24.kg posted photos of one victim's cuts and bruises, presumably taken by himself with a cell phone.
The police ostensibly wanted to check the detainees' papers, according to the Kyrgyz consulate in Khabarovsk.
OMON (riot police) officers took them away in two police buses before assaulting them, the migrants said in a videotaped conversation with Valentina Chupik, chairwoman of Morning of Peace, a Moscow human rights NGO.
Abuse continued even after beatings
The abuse and mistreatment did not end with the police.
Several of the migrants passed out from the severity of their injuries, but paramedics operating an ambulance refused to take them to the hospital because they lacked identification. The absence of identification was not their fault; the police had seized their documents when assaulting them.
The police beatings were racially motivated, said Chupik.
"The police beat the migrants while shouting, 'The slants have come in droves,'" said Chupik. "This is a Nazi crime."
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) Vice-President Tolekan Ismailova, a Bishkek resident, also compared the brutality of the Khabarovsk incident with the Nazism of 1941.
"Joint reports monitoring the situation of migrants' rights in Russia show a tendency to narrow their space [to function] and a strengthening of violence and corruption," she said. "All this attests to large-scale violations of human rights and freedoms in Russia."
Xenophobia in Russia
Central Asians working in Russia, doing jobs that Russians scorn, are sadly familiar with contempt and hatred from the local population.
An August poll found an increasing number of respondents, compared to past surveys, who wanted fewer migrant workers in Russia and shorter permissible stays for them.
Civilians, like corrupt police, have assaulted Central Asians solely out of racial animus.
Labourers in Russia face the threat of being attacked by so-called skinheads, or neo-Nazis, who are on the lookout for anyone with non-Slavic features, Kyrgyz migrant worker Bolot Orozov said in July.