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Thursday, 21 April 2011

Russian migration official fired in racism row

The spokesman for Russia's main migration agency was fired Wednesday after saying in an interview the "survival of the white race was at stake" in Russia.

Konstantin Poltoranin, the Federal Migration Service's chief spokesman since 2005, said he did not understand why Europe fostered immigration from Africa and the Middle East.

Russia must be more cautious about "mixing bloods," he said in an interview with the BBC Russian Service just hours before his sacking.

"The survival of the white race is at stake and this is very palpable in Russia," Poltoranin said.

The head of the Federal Migration Service, Konstantin Romadanovsky, called the comments "unacceptable" and confirmed they had cost the spokesman his job, the state-run Itar-tass news agency reported.

The Kremlin added Poltoranin's interview had raised a red flag at the presidential administration and his sacking was a "logical and necessary step," a spokesman said.

In a subsequent interview, Poltoranin denied his comments were "racist," but stressed Russia should give priority to migrants who "know Russia, know our faith and accept our customs and laws."

The Russian Orthodox Church is the dominant faith, but about one-fifth of Russia's 143 million people are Muslims.

With its combustible mix of disenchanted ethnic Russian youth and labour migrants from the mostly Muslim North Caucasus and ex-Soviet Central Asia, Moscow has become a focal point of racial tensions.

In December, Moscow saw the worst nationalist riots in its post-Soviet history, with police unable to stop some 7,000 youths rallying near the Kremlin from attacking people of non-Slavic appearance in what President Dmitry Medvedev called "pogroms."

SOVA, a non-government group that tracks ethnic violence, said at least at least two people were killed and 68 injured in hate crimes last December, compared to three killed and 22 wounded for the same month in 2009.

At least 37 people were killed in hate crimes in Russia last year, it said.