Amnesty International has urged the EU to pressure Ukraine into properly enforcing anti-racism legislation, after a study it carried out found that racist attacks there are on the rise, according to The Parliament.

According to the report, four people have been killed in racist attacks in 2008 alone, and 2007 saw 60 racist incidents. However, only six perpetrators have been prosecuted under an article in the Ukrainian constitution that refers to ‘racist incitement’.

The fundamental problem in the country, says Amnesty’s Heather McGill, is that because the government does not recognise there is a problem, anti-discrimination legislation is not being properly applied.

“Ukraine is much further behind than most EU countries when it comes to willingness to face up to the problem,” she told on Wednesday, in advance of meeting with EU officials on the subject.

“The EU needs to demand that Ukraine makes the necessary changes.”

McGill, who is Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia researcher, said that Ukraine currently prosecutes racist crimes as ‘acts of hooliganism’, and says the problem of racially motivated attacks remains hidden.

The police also fail to acknowledge the seriousness of attacks and anecdotal evidence gathered by the study has found that there is “virtual impunity” for perpetrators.

The report has also found institutional racism in the police force; anyone who looks a little different, says McGill, is likely to be stopped by police and if arrested, is apt to be forced to pay to be released.

Ukraine has signed up to several human rights treaties, including the European convention on the protection of human rights and the UN convention against torture, so the state’s failure to protect people could be seen as “consent or acquiescence in torture”, says the report.

All this comes ahead of a planned summit in Evian in September, which will look at forging a new agreement between Ukraine and the EU. A free trade area is part of a future deal, which also includes obligations on Ukraine to complete specific economic and sectoral reforms.

Amnesty hopes to get its report on the table at the summit to force Ukraine to recognise the problem.

The Parliament