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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Race Violence in Russia Continues at Frenzy Level

The Moscow Times reports:

A government official from Ingushetia has died in a Moscow hospital after being savagely beaten near the Sukharevskaya metro station last week in what prosecutors say may have been a hate crime. Batyr Kurkiyev, head of Ingushetia's energy commission, was attacked Feb. 19 near the metro station. Kurkiyev died from his injuries Monday evening in City Hospital No. 33, never having regained consciousness, City Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said Tuesday. He was 46.

Moscow prosecutors are reluctant to pin a motive on the crime, with Petrenko saying only that they have opened an investigation and that no suspects have been detained. "We're not excluding anything, from a racist crime, to an attack committed by hooligans, to a personal conflict, to possible business dealings," Petrenko said.

But Ingush officials and human rights activists say Kurkiyev was likely attacked because he did not look like an ethnic Russian. "What other explanation can there be if a person gets bashed in the head more than 30 times," said Umar Sapraliyev, head of the Ingush republic's representative office in Moscow. "If they wanted to rob him, they would have hit him a couple times over the head and taken his money," Sapraliyev said. "But they beat him unconscious and didn't even touch his valuables." Ingush President Murat Zyazikov said "this tragic death" shows "there are attempts to destroy the native tradition of respecting people of different nationalities, of tolerance," Interfax reported. Zyazikov said Ingush officials would ask Prosecutor General Yury Chaika to oversee the case personally. It was not clear how many people attacked Kurkiyev. What is known is that he had not planned to get off at the Sukharevskaya metro station. "I assume he was forced outside," Sapraliyev said. At the time of the attack, Kurkiyev had just arrived at Kazansky Station by train from Nazran to attend an energy tariff conference, Sapraliyev said. He was planning to go to his brother's house in northern Moscow before heading to the conference, Sapraliyev said.

Police dispatchers received a call around noon that a man "with Asian features" and "serious physical injuries" had been found near the Sukharevskaya metro station, a city police spokeswoman said.

Investigator Alexander Polupan, of the Meshchansky district prosecutor's office, which is handling the case, said he had only learned of the incident Monday and could not comment.

Alexander Brod, head of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, said the brutality of the attack and the fact that nothing was stolen from Kurkiyev indicated that skinheads or other extremist youth could be to blame for the attack.

"In the run-up to Hitler's birthday next month, we could be seeing an increase in these type of attacks," Brod said. "Skinheads will be trying to garner some attention for themselves."

In recent years, skinheads and other fascist groups have celebrated April 20, the anniversary of Hitler's birth, by attacking dark-skinned people.

Magomed Markhiyev, Ingushetia's minister for interethnic affairs, said by telephone that the republic's government is in direct contact with Moscow authorities to ensure that the crime is solved. "It is unacceptable that such crimes can be committed in broad daylight," Markhiyev said.

Kurkiyev's body was to be flown back to Ingushetia on Tuesday, Markhiyev said.

City police chief Vladimir Pronin said two years ago that there were no skinheads in Moscow, just "rabble ... who attack people of various nationalities."

According to the Sova Center, which tracks hate crimes, 53 people died and 460 were injured in racist attacks last year. In 2005, 42 people died and 406 were injured in racist attacks, according to the center's statistics.

LR: That's a 25% increase in race killings in the last year, and a 15% increase in race-related violence. Read about another recent horror story here.

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