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    Moscow reports race-hate crime up six-fold in first half of 2008

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    The number of race-hate and other extremist crimes in Moscow has risen six-fold in the first half of 2008, year-on-year, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office said.

    MOSCOW, July 25 (RIA Novosti) - The number of race-hate and other extremist crimes in Moscow has risen six-fold in the first half of 2008, year-on-year, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office said.

    "A total of 73 crimes that fall under this category have been registered in Moscow, up almost six-fold year-on-year, when 13 such crimes were registered," said Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the investigations committee.

    Until recently authorities have been generally reluctant to treat skinhead attacks as xenophobic crimes, portraying them instead as acts of hooliganism.

    According to the committee's information, the number of race-hate and other xenophobic crimes in Russia in the reported period has risen 67%, from 150 to 250, while the overall number of crimes fell 9%.

    Russia has seen a wave of racially-motivated crimes since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Routine attacks by skinheads and gangs of youths on foreigners and people with non-Slavic features are a regular occurrence in Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as in the central Russian city of Voronezh, which hosts many foreign university students.

    The Central Federal District, which includes Moscow and Voronezh, reported a 163% growth in xenophobic crimes in the first half of 2008, from 37 to 98.

    "It is hideous that the bulk of the murders were committed by minors, whose conscience is poisoned by nationalist propaganda," Bastrykin added.

    Criminal cases against three extremist groups, including one charged with 12 murders, are currently in progress.

    The most high-profile skinhead attack in Russia took place on August 21, 2006, when a bomb ripped through the multi-ethnic Cherkizovsky market in the northwest of Moscow, killing 11 people, including two children, and injuring more than 40.

    An investigation of the blast led police to the "Spas" extreme-nationalist group, which was waging a campaign against "immigrants" and people of "non-Slavic appearance" while operating under the cover of a martial-arts club.

    The alleged 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 and had committed a number of other attacks.

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