New road safety regulations bar transsexuals, transvestites and others with “sexual disorders” from driving.
The United Nations has called on Russia to combat all acts of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia in a report that also addressed a wide range of other human rights abuses.
The document, published on Thursday, said the UN Human Rights Committee was particularly concerned by attacks on non-Slav persons, including migrant workers from Central Asia, the Caucasus, Africa and persons of Roma origin.
The report mentions physical attacks by ultra-nationalist, racist and neo-Nazi groups including skinheads as well as discriminatory language against national, ethnic, religious or other minorities. It also discusses xenophobic and racist rhetoric in the political discourse, in particular during electoral campaigns, and in the media.
Especially alarming are anti-migrant comments by high-level public officials and in state media.
The committee issued the report after looking into Russia’s record and listening to comments by Moscow representatives.
Russian officials denied the truth of many of the reports cited by the committee during the discussion last month.
However, Tanya Cooper, a researcher of Human Rights Watch in Moscow, told Al Jazeera that xenophobic attitudes and rhetoric were “popular” in the country.
“Especially alarming are anti-migrant comments by high-level public officials and in state media,” Cooper said. “Migrants and non-Russians are at the centre of the government’s crackdown, along with liberal opposition, independent media and LGBT people.”
Cooper said the three years since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency have been the worst for human rights in the country’s post-Soviet history.
Limited freedom of speech
The UN report pointed out that laws signed by Putin were believed to be violating the 1976 International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, including the legislation that limited internet activity and restricted links between Russian non-governmental organisation (NGOs) from getting foreign funding.
“Main victims of this state attack on civil society are civil rights organisations and civil rights activists,” Dmitry Dubrovsky, the director of the human rights programme at the Smolny Institute of St Petersburg State University, told Al Jazeera.
“Freedom of speech does not exist anymore – practically all media outlets, including online publications, are under total control of either state or state-affilated companies,” he said.
“The UN report, I’m afraid, as previous text on serious human rights violations in Russia, will be ignored and, if quoted, only as example of ‘Russophobia’ and ‘aggressive’ politics of Western countries to Russia.”
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