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Three Kyrgyz Nationals Sentenced In High-Profle Russian Rape Case

YAKUTSK, Russia -- Three Kyrgyz nationals have received prison terms for their roles in a high-profile rape case that sparked mass protests and attacks against Central Asian labor migrants in Russia's Far Eastern region of Sakha-Yakutia in March.

One of the migrants from Kyrgyzstan was found guilty of abduction and raping a local woman and received a 14-year prison term from the court on September 11. Two other men were found guilty of holding the woman against her will, with one of them also being found guilty of rape. They were sentenced to four years and six years in prison, respectively.

The rape of the woman in the regional capital Yakutsk, about 4,900 kilometers east of Moscow, sparked mass protests by locals, who demanded the regional government expel all labor migrants who came to the region from Central Asia.

Almost all of the businesses owned by Central Asians in Yakutsk were shuttered, bus services operated by labor migrants were disrupted, and Central Asian migrants in the city were urged to stay home for their own safety for several days after the incident.

Numerous attacks against Central Asian migrants in the city were reported after some 5,000 people gathered at the Triumf sports stadium in Yakutsk on March 18 to voice their anger over the situation.

Tensions were running so high that an official delegation from Bishkek led by the deputy chief of Kyrgyzstan's Migration Service, Samat Toktobolotov, had to travel to Yakutsk to discuss the situation with Sakha-Yakutia's top officials.

Following the mass protests, Sakha-Yakutia's head, Aisen Nikolayev, signed a decree banning foreigners from working in a total of 33 sectors including trade, city transportation, food and garment production, construction, taxi services, and accounting.

Yakuts, a Turkic-speaking indigenous people, comprise about half of the vast region's population of roughly 1 million.