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Moscow Court sentences race-hate group to prison

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MOSCOW, May 15 (RIA Novosti) - The Moscow City Court sentenced on Thursday eight men charged with a series of race-hate bombings that claimed 14 lives in the Russian capital in 2006-2007 to prison, for terms between two years and life.

The most notorious of the group's attacks took place on August 21, 2006, when a bomb ripped through the multi-ethnic Cherkizovsky market in northeast Moscow, killing 11 people including two children, and injuring over 40.

The court sentenced four defendants to life in prison, one to 20 years, another to 13 years and the remaining to two years.

An investigation into the blast led police to the "Spas" nationalist extremist group, the leader of which is said to be a 25-year-old Muscovite, Nikolai Korolyov, who got a life sentence. The group waged a campaign against "immigrants" and people of "non-Slavic appearance", and operated under the cover of a martial arts club.

The market bombers were detained on the day of the attack and charged with premeditated murder on the grounds of ethnic and racial hatred. The suspects later confessed that they had been motivated by racial hatred, prosecutors said.

The group's remaining attacks were carried out on a student hall of residence, a cafe, a clinic, a Muslim community center, an amusement arcade, the offices of the Russky Vestnik newspaper, as well as shopping centers.

Apart from the bombings, a number of the defendants were also charged with the murder of an Armenian student in the Moscow Metro in 2006.

Russia has seen a wave of racially-motivated crimes since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Routine attacks by skinheads and gangs on foreigners and non-whites are a regular occurrence. However, authorities have been generally reluctant to treat the attacks as race-hate crimes, portraying them instead as acts of hooliganism.

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