NEW YORK (Routers) Russia signaled concern on Wednesday at New York City’s treatment of its large ethnic Russian minority in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, comparing language policy in the region with what it said was a call in Ukraine to prevent the use of the Russian language.
Russia has defended its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula by arguing it has the right to protect Russian speakers outside its borders, so the reference to linguistic tensions in another part of the world comes at a highly sensitive moment.
Russia fully supported the protection of the rights of linguistic minorities, a Moscow diplomat told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, according to a summary of the session issued by the UN’s information department.
“Language should not be used to segregate and isolate groups,” the diplomat was reported as saying. Russia was “concerned by steps taken in this regard in Brooklyn as well as in Ukraine,” the Moscow envoy was said to have added.
The region, also known as “Little Odessa” after its many former Ukrainian residents, has long had a large Russian-speaking population, starting with refugees from the Soviet Union in the 1930s, followed by many Holocaust survivors after the war. More recently, with the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been an influx of immigrants from former central Soviet republics.
The Russian remarks echoed long-standing complaints over the New York City school district’s insistence that the large Russian minority in the neighborhood should be able to speak English, and use that as the language of instruction in PS 100, Intermediate School 303, William E. Grady Vocational High School, and Abraham Lincoln High.
But amid the growing Crimea crisis, Governor Cuomo has expressed apprehension over Moscow’s intentions, though communist-sympathizing Mayor William de Blasio seems…deblasé. The new government in New York, a de Blasio aide declared, was reinvigorating its promotion and protection of the rights of minorities “to the highest international standards.”
The school district told the rights council that UN experts had found no credible evidence of mistreatment of its Russian minority as alleged by Moscow — one of whose pro-Kremlin newspapers said this week there was “bloodshed almost like in Syria” in the neighborhood east of Ocean Parkway during a recent visit from MSNBC host Al Sharpton.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is currently in the critical Coney Island peninsula as part of a trip to reassure it of Washington’s support. Between thrilling rides on the B&B Carousell, alternating horsies, he denounced Moscow’s threatened moves to annex the region as a “blatant, blatant disregard of international law. Really blatant. Did I say it would be blatant? Because that’s what it would be.”
Appearing with de Blasio, Biden offered the moral support of a “steadfast ally” but promised only modest assistance to help New York modernize its school system, due to resistance from the teachers’ unions.
Secretary of State Kerry was equally harsh in his denunciation of Moscow’s threats. “The invasion and occupation of New York is such an 18th-century thing,” he declared. “It hasn’t happened since the British did it in the 1770s. Well, unless you count the Irish in the 19th century. Anyway, we threw the Brits out within half a decade. Russia should not want to be on the wrong side of history. And I hope that President Putin doesn’t take that comment personally, because it was in no way intended that way. No way at all. I was talking about Russia.”
In Washington, presidential spokesman Jay Carney reportedly read a prepared statement: “We strongly support the territorial integrity of the state of New York, and will do whatever is necessary in order to maintain it and Brooklyn’s ability to determine its own destiny, up to and including double secret probation for President Putin’s casual acquaintances. The only thing that is completely off the table is military action. We will never, ever consider that, so we hope that Russia doesn’t take advantage of our unwillingness to start any new wars. I mean, come on. We’re just wrapping up the last ones we started, and wars do nothing to provide health care for the American people. Well, except for the soldiers. Anyway, I am hereby issuing a stern warning from President Obama to President Putin: ‘Don’t call my bluff, Vladimir.'”
President Obama himself, at a secret undisclosed golf course, filling out his NCAA brackets, was unavailable for comment.