Russian novelist Ulitskaya attacked at awards ceremony: rights group

2 min

Moscow (AFP)

Activists on Thursday attacked prominent Russian writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya and other participants at a prize ceremony organised by top rights campaign group Memorial, which exposes Stalin-era repression.

Assailants threw bright green antiseptic in the face of 73-year-old Ulitskaya, an internationally acclaimed novelist, and hurled obscenities and anti-Semitic abuse at others.

Memorial had organised an essay competition for students to improve their knowledge of Russia's 20th century history and held a ceremony in central Moscow Thursday to announce the winners.

The protesters -- some youths, others in their 40s and 60s -- sought to disrupt the event, suggesting the contest was aimed at rewriting Russia's history and indoctrinating young people, said senior Memorial member Yan Rachinsky.

"They held placards saying 'We don't need alternative history'," Rachinsky, who witnessed the attack, told AFP.

He said the protesters threw a liquid containing ammonia in the face of a member of the jury for the prize.

"These people are aggressive and illiterate," he said, adding that some wore black-and-orange ribbons that symbolise Soviet victory in World War II and have been adopted by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

"This is a symptom of degradation. Such madness is happening for the first time," Rachinsky said.

"These are not Red Guards yet but this is a movement in that direction," he said, referring to Mao Zedong's student movement during China's Cultural Revolution.

Irina Yasina, a liberal economist and rights activist, said police did not intervene during the attacks.

"My assistant Natasha was called a liberal whore," she wrote on Facebook.

Julius von Freytag-Loringhoven, the head of the Moscow office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, a German think tank, said the attackers numbered about 20.

"When a delegation from a German foundation came, they started yelling 'Fascists! Fascists!'" he told AFP.

"Some of them were wearing uniforms of soldiers of the Second World War, others were singing patriotic Soviet songs to an accordion and others had cameras to film us."

Kremlin critics accuse President Vladimir Putin of whipping up anti-opposition hysteria since returning for a third term in 2012.