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© RIA Novosti. Vitaliy Ankov

Russky Island protests flare once again

by at 02/09/2011 14:47


Russky Island, where facilities for the upcoming 2012 APEC Summit are being built, has once again been struck by violent protests with some 1,500 workers laying down their tools on Sept. 2. The Muslim migrant workers reportedly refused to work because of Eid al-Fitr religious holiday.

The disturbance was only quelled with the arrival of riot police and Federal Security Service forces on the island. The press-service of the general contractor on the site, Crocus Group, said that the workers had since returned to work and that the dispute has been settled.

The mufti of the Russian Far East and imam of the only mosque in Vladivostok, Damir Ishmukhamedov, visited the island together with law enforcement forces and later said that the Muslim workers were, in fact, protesting over delays in payments and adverse conditions of life on the island.

“Some workers had not been paid for two or three months, depending on the sub-contractor. Many of those who arrived on the island work illegally, like slaves, which means they can neither receive their money from the contractor, nor leave the place,” Ishmukhamedov said. He added that the workers can’t shower as running water on the island is supplied for only two hours a day, and there is also lack of drinking water for the workers.

Earlier this week 500 Muslim workers clashed with guards on the island after Eid al-Fitr celebrations involving alcohol were prevented. Alcohol is strictly forbidden on the construction site.

Despite the total ban on drinking, bottles of vodka are delivered and sold to the workers by small motor boats, which secretly approach the island on a regular basis.

“Drinking is not allowed in Islam but several workers who want to drink were offended by the guard who denigrated their religion using Russian profanities, which quickly spurred non-drinking Muslims to strike as well,” said imam Ishmukhamedov.

Russky Island, which is home and place of work for some 800 migrant workers from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kirgizia, Turkey and China, has been hit by protests six to seven times during last year.

Crocus Group rejects allegations of providing substandard conditions, saying that it is hard to control the working and living conditions provided by the numerous subcontractors.

“We have about 100 subcontractors and 20,000 workers on the site. It’s really hard to control the working conditions and the honesty of the subcontractors. Very often, dissatisfied workers can’t reach us with their complaints,” said Yekaterina Chernenko, a spokeswoman for the local branch of Crocus Group.


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