Ukraine moves Roma families amid village's rage at murder

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Ukrainian police with villagers (pic: Odessa police website)Image source, ukrainian police
Image caption,
Police were sent to the village from Odessa to restore order (pic: Odessa police website)

Ukrainian officials have decided to move dozens of Roma (Gypsies) out of a village after their neighbours attacked their homes.

The violence erupted on Saturday in Loshchynivka, in the Odessa region, shortly after the body of a nine-year-old girl was found. Police said there were signs she had been raped.

A 21-year-old Roma man is in custody, suspected of having murdered her.

Odessa governor Mikheil Saakashvili said he shared the locals' outrage.

In a video message on Facebook (in Russian) he said "anti-social elements" were involved in "massive drug-dealing" in Loshchynivka.

Ukrainian police say the situation is now under control in the village, after extra police were sent there.

On Saturday, a crowd of furious villagers set a Roma house ablaze and smashed up others, breaking windows. The Roma residents managed to flee before the violence, and none were hurt, reports say.

YouTube clips uploaded by Irina Zolotaryova appear to show the attacks on property in the village.

Roma community help

The head of Izmayil district, where the village lies, said buses were ready to move the Roma families out on Monday. More than 50 Roma live there, Valentyna Stoykova told the news channel 112 Ukrayina.

She said the Roma would be re-housed.

"They themselves understand that they cannot continue living in the village. And our task is to keep them safe," Ms Stoykova said.

Only two of the Roma families living there owned their homes, she said, the other six families were renting.

The European Roma Rights Centre has documented previous cases of Roma being targeted in Ukraine and living in extreme poverty there.

More than 70% of Europe's Roma are poor and marginalised, and discrimination against them is rife.

Europe is estimated to have 10-12 million Roma, many of them concentrated in eastern, former communist countries.