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    Russian laws on xenophobia should be tougher - rights activist

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    STRELNA (near St. Petersburg), July 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russia should pass tougher legislation on xenophobia, hatred and violence, one of the country's leading human rights activists said Monday.

    A surge in violence targeting foreigners with non-Slavic features has prompted Russian and foreign human rights groups in recent months to raise concerns over the alarming spread of racist and xenophobic attitudes in the country.

    Ella Pamfilova, the head of the presidential council on civil society institutions and human rights, said the laws should be tougher to eliminate legal loopholes, when race-hate crimes are registered as "hooliganism" or no criminal cases are opened at all.

    "I believe that, on the one hand, it is necessary to toughen our legislation a bit so that there are no loopholes and no chances for our law enforcement bodies to register [incidents] as hooliganism rather than opening criminal case into xenophobia, racism and extremism," she said.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said in February that a rise in crimes based on ethnic and racial intolerance was shameful and demanded that the police take serious measures to improve the situation.

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