Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday laid out new principles for dealing with challenges posed by illegal immigration, and offered along with it what appeared to be a warning to corrupt members of law enforcement and ultranationalists who attack non-Russians.
Putin said those who break Russian immigration laws would be banned from entering the country again for between three and 10 years depending on the seriousness of their offenses, the Moscow Times reported.
The Russian leader also vowed that authorities would take forcible action to limit the stays of immigrants who linger in Russia without demonstrating a clear intent to find work.
But Putin, who has frequently come under fire for pandering to anti-immigrant sentiment, added that immigrants were not primarily to blame for inter-ethnic conflict in Russia, according to the Times.
He denounced corrupt members of law enforcement he claimed were working to protect "ethnic mafia" members, and said militant Russian nationalists and ethnic separatists are more culpable for the current discord than immigrants.
In a September article in Foreign Policy, Anna Alexseyeva, who closely monitors ethnic groups in Russia, wrote that Russia's "neo-Nazi and radical nationalist movements have flourished, making the lives of Russian immigrants ever more dangerous."
"In addition to labor exploitation and human trafficking, attacks on non-white minorities have become commonplace and often go unpunished," she wrote.
A frequent target, Alexseyeva wrote, are Tajik laborers in Russia, who in 2011 had a mortality rate of about one in 1000.
"In other words, it was as dangerous to be a Tajik immigrant in Russia in 2011 as it was to be an African American in the U.S. South in 1930," she wrote.
The divisions over immigration in Russia burst into view in October after a 25-year-old Russian man was fatally stabbed in Moscow, a crime many people blamed on immigrants from the heavily Muslim Caucasus region.
Rioters attacked local Muslims, while Russian police rounded unsuspected illegals.
Russians living in the area complained bitterly that they were afraid to walk the streets because of crimes committed by immigrants living nearby, Reuters reported.
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