4 December 2021

Saturday, 10:17



Is a young Azerbaijani really a victim of hate in Russia?



One of the most scandalous events of the last month was the murder of a 19-year-old citizen of the Russian Federation, Vekil Abdullayev, by an officer of the State Traffic Safety Inspectorate (GIBDD) of the Russian Federation, Alexander Gusev. The tragic incident and the subsequent release of the murderer from custody demonstrated the true scale of xenophobic and nationalist sentiments in Russia. This, obviously, can cause unpredictable problems in internal political stability in such a multinational and multi-confessional state, but also for its strategic plans and interests in post-Soviet Eurasia.


The strong always blame the weak

The murder of Vekil Abdullayev took place on May 28 in the Moshkovsky district of Novosibirsk after the traffic police stopped the car with the victim for violation of driving rules. Three young passengers tried to escape from the scene. However, the police could detain one of them, and Vekil Abdullayev hurried to rescue his friend. Police officer Alexander Gusev hit Abdullaev several times, pressed his face against the hood of a patrol car, and then shot him in the head. As a result, the young man was mortally wounded, and two days later died in the hospital.

The murderer was initially prosecuted for abuse of office and causing death by negligence. The Central District Court of Novosibirsk arrested Gusev for two months. However, on the personal order of the Head of the Russian Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, Gusev was released on personal recognizance. Moreover, authorities began a check against the investigators who opened a case against Gusev on charges of negligent murder.

To justify such decisions, it is claimed that the law allows police officers to shoot in case of aggressive resistance. However, the video of the tragic incident shows that 19-year-old Vekil did not behave aggressively at all. And in this situation, A. Gusev not only had no reason to shoot, but even to get his pistol out. Since, according to the laws of the Russian Federation, law enforcement personnel can use their weapons only if their life or health is threatened. But there was no such threat, just as there was no warning from the police about their readiness to use weapons.

How can we understand the decisions of the Russian Investigation Committee on the release of Gusev and repression against the investigators who initiated a criminal case against him?! Interestingly, there were many Russian nationals who filed a petition in support of the policeman who committed the murder, as well as the representatives of political circles who justified Gusev's deadly shot. Moreover, a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, a candidate for the State Duma from the ruling United Russia Party, Maria Butina, not only approved of Gusev's actions, but also offered to reward him for his service. What does all this mean?! The opinion of the majority of experts is unambiguous: this is a manifestation of xenophobic sentiments in Russia.

Representatives of the Azerbaijani intelligentsia, including journalists, veterans of the Second World War, labour and the Azerbaijani Army made individual appeals to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin regarding the incident. They expressed deep indignation at the release from custody of the police officer who exceeded his powers, which is regarded not only as a concealment and approval of the crime, but also as an encouragement for those who suffer from xenophobia. Authors of petition demand the just punishment of everyone involved in this dirty incident, including the police officer, who shot the 19-year-old Vekil.



Armenian trace?

There is no answer to these appeals yet. But there are attempts by the police to interpret the incident from a different angle. In addition to arresting the friends of the murdered Abdullaev - Ilkin Ismayilov and Ruslan Gurbanov - accused of attacking the traffic police, they became involved in another criminal case. Now there found a victim who was allegedly assaulted by the group back in the autumn of 2020: Ismayilov and Gurbanov are also accused of beating that person and stealing his money and phone. Now the idea is that the murdered young man could be involved in criminal acts. Even worse – the Azerbaijani guys were likely the members of an ethnic criminal gang...

It is, of course, possible to assume that the Armenians are involved in the promotion of the idea about the past crimes of Azerbaijanis. After all, the same Maria Butina, who pretended to be a public voice advocating the release of police officer Gusev, is an employee of Russia Today, being an obedient executor of the will of the outlet’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan. Plus, there is a campaign in the Russian media aimed at denigrating the Azerbaijani diaspora, which, they say, “threatens not only the Armenians, but also the Russians.” This is an information product, which apparently, benefits from the direct involvement of the Armenians.

However, regardless of the role of Armenians in the Abdullayev incident accompanied by some other anti-Azerbaijani manifestations, the key point is the very fact that xenophobia can become a common phenomenon in Russia. And since the growth of xenophobia and neo-fascist sentiments in the country that defeated fascism has long been linked to the activities of various nationalist organizations, in particular skinheads, then we wish the Russian authorities, including the law enforcement, not to be mentioned in the same context.


Risk of losing control

The murder of Abdullayev and the subsequent release of Gusev indicates that the Russian society becomes increasingly intolerant towards migrants, regardless of their Russian citizenship – it’s often enough if they look like Asians or Caucasians.

Migrants also suffer from information campaigns covering criminal acts, which often focus on the nationality of criminals. If, say, a certain Azerbaijani committed a crime, accent of the message is placed on the ethnic background of the criminal. On the contrary, when Azerbaijanis display acts of ordinary human heroism, risking their own lives to save those of fellow citizens of other ethnicity, news about their heroism do not often receive wide publicity in Russia.

For example, back in 2013 in the Lyubertsy district of Moscow, Salamaddin Naghiyev, a 21-year-old Azerbaijani who came to visit his father, died tragically in the Pekhorka River, rescuing the drowning local children - three girls. He saved them at the cost of his life.

Another incident took place in July 2020 in Novy Urengoy, when three natives of Azerbaijan, Bakhtiyar Nabiyev, Anar Nabizade and Fakhraddin Hajiyev, rescued a man from a burning private house. According to the press service of the regional Ministry of Emergencies of the Russian Federation, there was no human casualties thanks to the courage of these three guys, who risked their own lives to save the man.

However, stories like the one in Novosibirsk contribute to the further spread of xenophobia and nationalist sentiments and raise the question of the fate of the interethnic peace in Russia. Since the release from custody of those who murder their own citizens with different ethnic origin damages the international reputation of Russia, which is ambitions to establish itself as an attractive integration hub in the post-Soviet space.

The murder of Vekil Abdullayev and the events following the incident are often compared to an almost similar crime in the United States - the murder of black George Floyd by white policeman Derek Chauvin. It sparked massive protests against police violence in the United States, anti-racist demonstrations in many other countries.

However, it is remarkable that in multinational Russia there is not only protest actions against crimes motivated by racial and national hatred, but even any serious discussion of the problem. At the same time, attempts to cover up the incident can only aggravate the situation, which does not promise anything good, primarily for the internal and external interests of the multinational Russian state.

There is a very significant point in the appeal of the Azerbaijani intelligentsia to the Russian President: “Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, we cannot even imagine that something similar could happen in Azerbaijan. But who knows what will happen tomorrow if people like Gusev and Butina forget moral laws of their ancestors, urging not to shed innocent blood in vain, join the ranks of people professing the ideology of intolerance and xenophobia? The world is already walking along the edge of the abyss, risking falling into it. So is it worth ignoring the actions of Gusevs, Butinas and Bastrykins?"

Indeed, it’s frightening to imagine what the world will become if the “good guys” get unintentional reasons to kill the “bad guys” without being held accountable for their acts.