Armenians targeted in Ukraine incident

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Friday July 03, 2009

The knifing death of Sergei Bondarenko (pictured) was followed by anti-Armenian reprisals in a small Ukrainain town.  .

Washington - A drunken argument deteriorated into a fight that left a local young man dead in the small town of Marganets in Ukraine's Dnepropetrovsk  province.

Alla Arakelova, a lawyer for the Ukrainian-Armenian community, told Ukraine's TSN television that the June 29 incident was followed by acts of reprisal against ethnic Armenian families that forced them to flee Marganets for nearby towns. Special police forces along with Ukraine's police chief arrived in Marganets to calm the tensions.

According to TV reports, many of the local residents demanded that ethnic Armenians - all of whom are reportedly Ukrainian citizens - be expelled and the town mayor promised to check if anyone became a Marganets resident "illegally."

Armenians reportedly began to settle in the small mining town after the 1988 earthquake, while both Armenia and Ukraine were still part of USSR, but more arrived from Armenia in subsequent years, with the community numbering 50 families.

Since the Soviet collapse, ethnic Armenians along with other natives of Caucasus and Central Asia have emigrated in large numbers to Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus; in recent years they have increasingly been targeted in xenophobic attacks.

According to reports in Russian media, almost exactly a year earlier, on June 13, 2008, a similar drunken squabble in an Armenian-owned café in the small town of Verkhneuralsk in Russia's Chelyabinsk province resulted in massive fight that left an ethnic Russian dead and several others injured.

Gagik Mkhitarian, a Chelyabinsk representative for the Union of Armenians of Russia, was quoted at the time as saying that an initial fight was followed by vandalism against Armenian-owned businesses and several Armenian families leaving the town for fear of attacks.

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