Russia has not arrested two suspects who attacked a Korean student in Moscow on Sunday, it clarified Wednesday. The precipitate announcement has raised some eyebrows in Korea.
Russian police told the Korean Embassy in Moscow on Wednesday they have completed composite pictures of the suspects and are confident of their imminent arrest. But a day earlier, Russian Ambassador to Korea Konstantin Vnukov told the Korean Foreign Ministry the two suspects are already under arrest.
The article closes with a source saying perhaps the Russian ambassador lied in order to placate the Korean Foreign Minister. On the 9th the ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry over the murder of one Korean student in February and the wounding of another this month.
"Vice Foreign Minister Shin Kak-soo summoned the Russian ambassador in Seoul to urge swift investigation into the recent crimes against South Koreans in Russia and efforts to prevent the recurrence of such incidents," a ministry official said.
Russian police said, according to KBS, the assailants likely weren't targetting Koreans:
Russian police say they are questioning two suspects in connection with Sunday’s stabbing of a South Korean student in Moscow.
Russian police said Tuesday that if charges against the suspects are confirmed, stern punishments will follow.
They also said that the attack does not appear to have been aimed South Koreans in particular.
Not that it makes things any safer for Koreans or for foreigners in general.
The Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, has issued safety precautions for Koreans in Russia.
The ministry made the notice on its Web site Thursday, saying that attacks by skinheads or other ultrarightist groups can target people regardless of age and gender.
The ministry warned Koreans not to go outside alone or at night in Russia.
It also warned that Adolf Hitler's birthday, April 20th, and November fourth’s National Unity Day tend to see more hate crimes than usual.
The Korea Times has more:
The government issued a travel warning to Russia Thursday, following attacks on South Korean students there.
All of the country, except for the southern Kavkaz region, has been designated as a level 1 warning zone ``temporarily'' from March 11 to May 31, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement.
A level 1 travel warning advises tourists and visitors to take precautions while traveling.
Kavkaz remains as a level 3 restricted zone due to the possibility of terrorist activities in Chechnya.
A JoongAng Daily article via Yonhap about Russia's mixed messages closes with:
In Tuesday’s meeting with the Russian envoy, South Korea’s vice foreign minister, Shin Kak-soo, lodged a strong complaint over the series of crimes, saying Korea-Russia relations may be strained if the recent rise of crimes against South Koreans in Russia is allowed to continue.
The website for the Korean Embassy in Moscow has posted a message with the following points to heed:
- 야간에 단독 외출을 삼가시고 주간에도 가급적 외진 곳은 통행을 삼가해 주시기 바라며 가능하면 반듯이 단체로 이동하여 주시기 바랍니다.
- 한국인 단체 관광객들 주변에서 이유없이 배회하거나 과잉친절행동을 하는 외국인이 있으면 각별한 주의가 요구됩니다.
- 장기체류자의 경우 출퇴근 경로나 상시 출입하는 장소로의 이동 경로를 주기적으로 변경하시기 바랍니다.
- 만일의 사태 발생시 관할 대사관이나 총영사관으로 즉시 연락을 바랍니다.
After all, these aren't the first two attacks on Korean students in Russia. The JoongAng Daily, among others, mentions more:
In 2005, two Korean students in their teens in St. Petersburg were stabbed and seriously injured, and in 2007, another Korean student was attacked by a group of Russians and died while receiving treatment. Last year, a female university student studying in Russia was terrorized by a group of Russians wielding flammable materials.
Several English-language papers have weighed in with editorials. Here's the Korea Herald:
These unprovoked attacks have caused the roughly 2,000 Korean students in Russia to fear further racially-motivated assaults. The Korean Embassy in Moscow asked the Russian authorities to ensure better security for the large number of Korean students, but we cannot expect any extraordinary steps from them, as they are already heavily burdened with a rising crime rate.
A lengthy excerpt from the Times' "Fearful in Moscow":
This should be a rude awakener to both Korean and Russian diplomats in a country where up to 15 percent of local youths are sympathetic with the xenophobic, racist groups, which believe everything bad in their country is ascribable to foreigners, as these aliens are exploiting Russia's wealth and resources while taking away local people's jobs.
Regretful are the reports that Moscow appears not very eager to crack down on these anti-social, anti-human elements ― even if one acknowledges this is neither a problem peculiar to Russia nor an easy one to root out ― not least because such xenophobic trends would drive foreign investors and tourists further away, which will in turn lead to even greater economic difficulties and a wider income gap among the Russians in a vicious circle.
None other than Korean residents in Russia are reportedly expressing not just shock and anger but fear, raising questions whether Russia is a law-abiding, civilized state where law enforcement authorities are operating normally. These ethnic Koreans have already been suffering enough from inconveniences with visas and other consular problems there.
The foreign ministry is considering issuing a travel warning for more regions of Russia, while telling Koreans to avoid pleasure quarters especially after dark as well as to travel in groups. This ``take-good-care-of-yourself" advice may be better than nothing, but Koreans in Russia are asking, ``Does it mean we'll have to personally hire bodyguards?"
Seoul must go way further from this and call for Moscow to thoroughly investigate these incidents, punish the criminals and promise to do its best to prevent their recurrences ― not just in words but in deeds. If these requirements are unmet, there is no reason President Lee Myung-bak shouldn't make a personal call to either Russian President Dmitri Medvedev or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and show them what summit diplomacy is supposed to be.
The JoongAng Daily's "Russia’s words not enough":
We now need more from the Russian government than words. Saying that it will try its best to prevent such incidents from happening again in the future is no longer enough.
Instead, the government must act to catch the criminals and subject them to proper judgment after thorough and quick investigations. The Russian authorities also need to develop measures to protect Korean students and residents staying in their country.