Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened on Monday to shut down schools and universities where “the propaganda of extremism” is practiced, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.
Medvedev’s remarks came during his meeting with police in the Moscow Region, during which several police officers touched upon the problem of inter-ethnic tensions in Russia. One of the officers said teachers of some Russian schools and universities “openly call for extremism.”
“Sometimes teachers are either not ready to transmit the right values, or they do things like that deliberately,” Medvedev replied. “I believe it would be natural for the Education Ministry and relevant regional authorities to use responsive means, including the withdrawal of accreditation from educational institutions in some cases over propaganda of extremism – there is no need to hesitate.”
The president noted, however, that Russian laws are frequently criticized for a lack of clearness in defining what extremism is, which results in “quite normal cases of public behavior” being sometimes labeled as extremist.
“Existing law enforcement and court practice” will eventually serve as a guideline in such cases, he said.
Medvedev also said he believed the problem of inter-ethic tensions in Russia can be resolved in a “civilized way” if all state and civil institutions “operate properly.”
“We understand all the existing problems, and some decisions must follow,” he said.
Medvedev’s comments are in line with remarks by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who warned last week against possible “fatal” consequences of fuelling nationalist sentiments in Russia.
Speaking during a meeting with WWII veterans in St. Petersburg last Friday, Putin criticized his challengers in the presidential race for what he called “exploiting” the nationalist issue in order to achieve “selfish political goals.”
Meanwhile, Putin himself was accused by critics of playing the nationalist card in his election campaign when he proposed earlier last week an array of robust measures, including stiff laws, to deal with soaring numbers of illegal immigrants in Russia. The issue has long been a source of huge public discontent among Russians who fear being “overrun” by people from former Soviet republics.
Putin’s proposal came less than a week after he wrote an article on modern problems of multiethnic Russia as part of his election program. He said migrants should respect the customs and traditions of regions they come to live in, and that any aggressive or disrespectful behavior should be properly addressed by the authorities.