updated 12/12/2008 12:52:45 PM ET 2008-12-12T17:52:45

An African-American exchange student has been stabbed by unknown assailants in a southern Russian city in an attack officials say may have been racially motivated.

Stanley Robinson, 18, of Providence, R.I., was in grave but stable condition Friday, said the head doctor of Volgograd's Hospital No. 12. Investigators were trying to determine if the Dec. 5 assault on Robinson was a hate crime, said Svetlana Smolyaninova, a spokeswoman for the city police.

Robinson's mother, who has spoken twice with her son by telephone since the attack, has no doubts.

"I believe it happened because he is a person of color," Tina Robinson said in a telephone interview Friday from her home in Providence. "It was completely unprovoked."

Russian authorities have not ruled out robbery or random violence, Smolyaninova said. No suspects have been detained.

The stabbing took place in Volgograd, an industrial city of 1 million people southeast of Moscow.

Tina Robinson said her son had developed pneumonia, and said she was trying to arrange his transfer to a Western-style medical facility. "I'm very concerned about the care he's getting there," she said.

The U.S. Embassy declined comment, citing privacy concerns.

In recent years Russia has seen a rising number of attacks against members of non-Russian ethnic groups, particularly people from the Caucasus region and Central Asia, who often have darker skin.

Students and immigrants from Africa are also frequent targets of attacks, but attacks on Westerners are rare.

Rights organizations have accused authorities of downplaying the problem by classifying ethnic attacks as hooliganism rather than hate crimes.

Tina Robinson said she was unaware of Russia's troubles with racism when her son left for a year abroad. "If I had any inkling that there was any possibility of this happening, I would have tried to dissuade him," she said.

Conflicting reports
The victim's mother and police gave slightly differing accounts of the attack.

Smolyaninova said three men approached Robinson at about 6 p.m. in a dark street far from his host family's home. The assailants stabbed Robinson twice in the chest, she said.

Tina Robinson said her son had just finished working out at a gym and was headed for a bus stop when a single stranger approached and punched him. Robinson punched back, his mother said. The attacker then pulled a knife and stabbed Robinson in the chest and side, she said.

Relatives said Robinson, a graduate of East Providence High School in Rhode Island, was three months into a year's stay in Russia. He was studying Russian on a program arranged by the American Field Service, or AFS.

Tina Robinson said she did not blame the host family. The host family could not be reached for comment Friday.

Galina Kozhevnikova, the deputy head of a group that tracks hate crimes, said Robinson was the 386th person to be injured in an apparently racially motivated attack this year. According to the rights group, called Sova or Owl, at least 85 people have been killed this year in such incidents.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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