Continuing with our breaking news story of the inter-ethnic violence in the small Russian town of Chemodanovka, in the Penza Oblast. Trying to break down the Who, When, Where, Why, etc.
Yesterday we learned that the Russian Gypsy community actually has a formal leader, a woman named Nadezhda Demeter, who reports to the Federal government twice a year on the status of gypsies and how well they are integrating into Russian society. Apparently not as well as they should.
The incident broke out on Thursday, June 13, and has been ongoing since then. The police and Federal government have shown a remarkable promptness in rushing to squelch this. Such incidents must not be allowed to drag on and fester.
Police say it started with a everyday type conflict, a verbal exchange of opinions. Demeter claims it started as a childrens squabble, but she wasn’t there, so she doesn’t really know. While the “establishment” Russian press is really toning everything down, the blogosphere is lit up with lurid claims. Including the claim that the villagers actually began it, when some men attempted to rape an underage gypsy girl. Or maybe the other way around. However it began, which is one of the matters the police are attempting to determine, the point is, that it escalated to full-scale riot, that gypsies and non-gypsies went at each other, and that people were hurt. Initially police arrested 174 people and charged them with “Hooliganism”. But the matter escalated rapidly and became a Federal case.
One point that is not quite clear, and needs to be elucidated, is whether the gypsies (Roma) actually live in Chemodanovka or were just passing through.
By Friday around 1,500 (non-gypsy) residents of the town marched to an impromptu town meeting/village gathering (народный сход). Police were not thrilled with this development, possibly fearing that a peaceful “town hall” could morph into a pogrom at any moment. The Federal government also does not take such events lightly, and are always worried when it seems like ordinary citizens might take the law into their own hands. In addition, the enraged citizenry took it upon themselves to block the M-5 Highway and all the roads leading in and out of Penza. Which also attracted the attention of the Feds. The Federal government will not tolerate such outbreaks of the fabled Russki Bunt.
By Sunday, members of the Investigative Committee (Russia’s version of the FBI), police, and even the FSB, had flooded into the town and arrested an additional 12 participants of the riot, including the one suspected of the actual murder. (One person was killed in the melee.)
In this story we have also met the beleaguered Governor of the Penza Oblast, Ivan Belozertsev. Belozertsev acted quickly to offer assistance to the family of the murder victim. The victim and his sister even had their credit card debts expunged. The Russian government have learned in the past, during terror attacks, natural disasters and other types of crises, that prompt and humanitarian gestures such as that, help to lighten the load of a painful family catastrophe. In addition Governor Belozertsev has lashed out at the blogosphere and warned people to stop spreading “fake news” about the incident. Let the police do their job and investigate fully, he demands, and quite rightfully so.
Yesterday, Monday (June 17), Chief Prosecutor of Penza, Natalia Kantserova, met with residents of Chemodanovka, to discuss the crisis. Chief Investigator Dmitry Matushkin also participated in the reception.
Quick bio: Natalia Evgenievna Kantserova was born on 17 May 1958 in a village in the Rostov Oblast. After graduating from the Saratov Law Institute in 1979 she was assigned to work in Penza. She has worked as a Prosecutor and also criminal investigator. In 2002 she was awarded a medal for being a terrific Prosecutor. Moving up the ranks, she became Deputy Chief Prosecutor since 2006, and then Chief Prosecutor in 2013. In 2017 she won the prize of “Jurist of the Year” for the Russian Federation.
Given all her awards and medals, Kantserova seems to be in a good position to sort through all this “he said – she said” and restore order to the Province of Penza.
Current state: We have one person dead and another in the ICU. According to some reports, the dead man was a 33-year-old ethnic Russian named Vladimir Grishin. In the course of the melee his head got bashed in by his gypsy counterpart. A total of five people were hurt, of which two hospitalized. Most of the injuries the result of wounds inflicted by knives and axes. That’s about all we know for now. All that remains is to encourage the forces of law and order; that they fully investigate this incident, reveal the facts and punish the guilty; and to wish peace and calm upon these beleaguered people out there in the Russian wilderness.