The number of race-hate crimes in Russia has declined sharply, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday.
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 other areas of the country.
Putin made the comment at a university in the central Russian republic of Chuvashia in response to a remark by an Ecuadorian student who said he was worried by reports of racially motivated crimes.
"I think the government has been doing its best to handle the situation," Putin said. "As a result, compared with 2008, the number of race-hate crimes was halved in 2009."
While crimes against foreign students have reportedly fallen by 34%, Moscow saw two attacks on African nationals recently.
"We have achieved a lot, but we are not going to stop at that," Putin said.
"We should, of course, toughen laws against racially-motivated crime, but more importantly, we should all work together to meet this challenge, to engender a feeling of community, and to understand that we are a multi-confessional and multi-cultural country," he added.
CHEBOKSARY, January 25 (RIA Novosti)