04/20/2007, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Foreign students staying in dormitories for fear of ethnic violence on Adolf Hitler's birthday

Russian neo-Nazi group celebrate Hitler’s birthday. Sechenov Academy orders its Jewish students and students from the Caucasus to remain in their dormitories to avoid racist violence. Xenophobia is growing in Russia. Last year there were 53 ethnically-motivated murders with the authorities doing little or nothing to solve them.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Administrators in a leading Moscow university ordered foreign students on Thursday to remain in their dormitories for the next three days because of fears of ethnic violence on Adolf Hitler's birthday (April 20) this weekend, this according to students at the Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy which is located in the southern part of the Russian capital. They were told to stock up on food and not leave their dormitories at least until tomorrow Saturday in order to protect them from potential hate crimes. In the past, some members of ultra nationalist groups marked Hitler's birthday with attacks on ethnic minorities.

"It is nice that the university is taking care of us,” second-year medical student Liah Ganeline, told the Associated Press. “On the other hand, it's absurd that our freedom is being limited because of some militant groups.”

Only practicing physicians in training are allowed to leave the building, the Israeli student said, along with students who sign a statement saying they were responsible for their own safety. Others were given permission to miss classes. The Sechenov dormitory houses about 500 students mostly from Asia, Central Asia and the Caucasus

Sergei Baranov, acting dean of the university's foreign students department, said the school was conducting emergency drills through Saturday whilst at the same time trying to protect students from possible violence.

Last year, a group of skinheads threw firebombs at the dormitory building after shouting offensive slogans and giving the Nazi salute.

Liah Ganeline added that another university dormitory housing several hundred students in central Moscow was subject to similar restrictions.

Russia has seen a marked rise in racism and xenophobia among its young people over the past several years, with Jews and people from the Caucasus bearing the brunt of the violence.

According to the Sova human rights centre, which monitors xenophobia, 53 people were killed in 2006 and 460 others were injured in apparent hate crimes.

Activists say authorities do little or nothing to combat the problem. Instead, obvious hate crimes are regularly classified as mere hooliganism.

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