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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Annals of Russian Barbarism: Shocking New Data on Race Violence

The BBC reports:

A respected Russian human rights group has published shocking new data on the extent of racist violence in Russia. Sova says 38 people have been murdered in racist killings so far this year, and well over 300 people have been injured, mainly in stabbings.

According to its figures, the most common victims of racist killings are from the Caucasus and Central Asia. It also warns that Russia's skinheads have begun targeting other minorities, including homosexuals. Sova says that Moscow, St Petersburg and Russia's fourth city - Nizhniy Novgorod - are the leaders in racist attacks.

Ultra-right activists

It says 24 people have died in Moscow alone this year as a result of racially motivated killings by what it terms "skinheads". The word "skinhead" in Russia implies something much more than appearance. It is the generic term given to the country's ultra-right activists, who continue to form organisations and carry out attacks with what anti-racism groups say is impunity.

Sova estimates there are more than 60,000 skinheads in Russia.

It says its figures suggest the toll of racist attacks is increasing, but prosecutors remain reluctant to attribute racial motivation to killings of ethnic minorities. Instead, they often put them down to simple "hooliganism". Campaigners say this is because the authorities have traditionally turned a blind eye to racist killings, and used nationalism as a political weapon. Furthermore, a substantial proportion of ordinary Russians voice opinions that would be criminally racist in many European countries.

Many Russians reject this, pointing to what they say is infringement of their rights both in areas of Russia where they are an ethnic minority, and especially in the countries of the former Soviet Union. But anti-racism campaigners say there are new, ominous developments. Skinheads, they say, with the tacit connivance of the authorities, have started attacking non-conforming young people and homosexuals. Earlier this year, neo-Nazis violently attacked an attempted gay pride march in Moscow, while the police stood by.

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