On June 23, a band of teenagers attacked a Roma camp near Lviv. It was the latest in a series of unprovoked attacks on Roma encampments around Ukraine this year, but this tragedy was the bloodiest: A 24-yearold was stabbed to death. Seven more, including a ten-year-old boy, were injured.
This rising violence, and the fear-mongering, hateful rhetoric that often goes with it, can seem like it’s from a bygone era. And yet, dislike and suspicion of Roma remain commonplace in Ukrainian society. Many feel that Roma are thieves, swindlers, and social degenerates who had it coming.
But that’s no justification for the denial and inaction that have accompanied these attacks — for the police disinterest, and, this week, for the prominent politicians who have broadly implied that Russia and Russian agents are behind the attack.
It may be comforting to believe that Russian money or influence stand behind the June 23 savagery — but as of yet, this is unsubstantiated. A Bellingcat report handily demonstrates that the social network “Sober and Angry Youth” has chapters all over Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. You don’t need to look to the Kremlin to find racist, violent, neo-Nazi ideologies — and their adherents.
Hatred of Roma is, unfortunately, homegrown. And even if those Lviv teenagers had somehow been recruited into the attack by Russian secret services, their actions played on a history of prejudice that Ukraine must confront and solve.