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Just a brawl, or an Interethnic Conflict?


On March 22 in the village of Tsemdolina near the city of Novorossiisk, a fight occurred after which several events followed. The Center for Interethnic Cooperation tried to clarify what exactly happened in the village of Tsemdolina from three different sources. Since the data notably varies, it is a complex task to find out what in fact happened and it would be necessary to read the material to decide.

Vadim Karastelev, Expert of Autonomous Non-Commercial Union Novorossiisk Committee on Human Rights

In the caf? Smak, a group of young people: 8 young men and 6 young women; Greeks, Armenians and Russians; were celebrating the birthday of their friend, a Greek girl. Some of the group went outside to smoke and an altercation arose between them and some people approaching the caf?. According to information known to us, the cause of the conflict was the polite refusal of entrance to the caf? due to the fact that a birthday was being celebrated. The argument quickly turned into a brawl and all would have ended with abrasions and bruises, but as we were informed, among the youth was son of the leader of the city Cossack community (ataman), Vladimir Petrusha, who called for his fathers assistance. The ataman came, not alone but with other Cossacks, and began to use belts with metal plates and beat the girls over the head with bottles. The other side was left to defend itself.

One of the active participants of the conflict - Vladimir Petrusha - was taken to the City Hospital Number 1 with three knife wounds.

The prosecutor of the city has opened a criminal case under article 111, part 1 Intentional causation of heavy injury of health and article 213, part 2 Hooliganism. The suspect believed to have inflicted the knife-wounds has been detained.

On the following day, the mayor of Novorossiisk Vladimir Sinyagovsky summoned an emergency meeting with representatives of ethnic communities of the city and heads of the city police and announced that the instigators will be punished. However, those people were informed that the fight had occurred between Cossacks and representatives of the Armenian and Greek communities. The announcement of the mayor shown on local television in our opinion only added fuel to the fire of revenge by sympathizers of Vladimir Petrusha.

The situation grew more complicated with the fact that the caf? Smak happens to belong to one of the leaders of the Armenian community, a person who had nothing to do with the events.

At that time, activists of the Cossack movement called upon their fellow-fighters from neighboring regions. An order of 150-200 Cossacks from different cities assembled on buses to the ill-fated cafe and began to smash and loot it as well as some cars parked nearby. At exactly the moment when the Cossacks began to control their mob-law, and when law-enforcement agencies preferred not to get involved, the ordinary argument grew into an interethnic conflict.

At the meeting on the evening of March 23 with the Cossacks at the club Kuban, heads of the law-enforcement agencies assured that that the guilty would be found and punished, and with that, they did not in any way react with anti-Armenian slogans.

The following events began to unfold: Representatives of the law-enforcement agencies came to activists of the Greek and Armenian communities with unexpected check-ups which are more than anything, an attempt to exert pressure. It became known to us that Vladimir Putins reception room called the mayor showing interest in the situation, as the topic of the pogrom was brought up at the meeting of the Russian president with the president of Armenia, Robert Kocharian. Foreign media spread information about the Armenian pogrom and telephone calls began to come in from abroad. On March 28, the head Kuban ataman Vladimir Gromov, the city authorities, 40 Cossacks, the father of the Orthodox Church Georgiy, and 4 members of the Armenian community discussed the situation that had arisen. Let us note that the numerical advantage in such meetings is a constant attribute of the authorities, again to render pressure. At the meeting, anti-Armenian statements resounded; that there are too many Armenians, that Kuban is overpopulated and it, they said, is not their homeland. Not a single reaction followed from the authorities. We have great doubts that the detained wont be subjected to extra-judiciary procedures with the goal of extracting appreciative statements. Human rights activists are prepared to participate in the judicial process in order to ensure the observance of human rights..

Valerii Ostrozhniy, Deputy Head of the Department on Interaction with Public Organizations and Political Parties of the Administration of the Krasnodar Territory

The authorities of the Krasnodar Territory do not consider it necessary to get involved in the situation. The fight in the village of Tsemdolina and the following Cossack protests were ordinary squabbles, and one must not characterize it as an interethnic conflict. According to these facts, a criminal case has been opened, and the law-enforcement agencies should deal with the solution to the problem.

German Ananiants, Vice-President of the Union of Armenians of Russia

Not one Armenian took part in the fight at the caf?. The only Armenian that was at the caf? that evening was the owner who tried to pacify the brawlers. The next day a group of Cossacks passing through that street committed a pogrom at the caf? Smak as well as at two other cafes. They also smashed several cars that unfortunately happened to be in their way. The owners of the other two cafes were Russian. So the whole question is about an ordinary fight, not about an interethnic conflict.

1993-2003
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