Roma people targeted in Ukraine by radicals

by: Jackson Sharman

While Ukraine faces military aggression from Russia, there is strife within the country’s borders as Roma people are being targeted.

On October 17, 2021, a group of 50 far-right radicals went to Irpin (a city 15 miles from Kyiv) and called for violence against the city’s Roma community. The marchers were apparently acting in response to an attack on a 22-year-old man in Irpin two days earlier, in which two Roma teens, aged 16 and 17, were accused.

The mayor of Irpin and other city officials did not condemn the marchers or their hateful speech. An Irpin police official referred to the march as a “peaceful gathering.” However, other officials admitted that the marchers “scared Roma [people]” and “made them hide in their homes.”

Up to 400,000 Roma people live throughout Ukraine, with about half residing in cities.

The October march ignited an Internet campaign of further abuse against Roma people. The intensified targeting is not a new trend in the country; in 2018, Ukraine’s Roma community faced increasing levels of violence from right-wing gangs.

In a 2018 attack on the outskirts of the western city of Lviv, a 24-year-old Roma man was stabbed to death and four others were injured.

A Roma activist named Anzhelika Bielova said that she and her friends and colleagues have received death threats as part of the more recent targeting. In 2019, Bielova was stabbed for what her colleagues believe were her activist efforts for Roma people.

Ukrainian officials should work to implement legal and political solutions to ensure Roma peoples’ safety. Official investigations into waves of violence against Roma have rarely ended in convictions and attackers are almost never held accountable by the Ukrainian government.

photo credit: AP Photo

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