Alarming rise in hate crime prompts call for action
The Slav Union is typical of the kind of organisation behind the problem. It calls for Russia to get rid of ethnic minorities.
Four of its members have been given life sentences for staging an explosion at a market that killed 14 people two years ago.
In another high profile case, 13 teenage skinheads are currently on trial for a spate of apparent hate crimes, including beating a Yakut chess player to death with a baseball bat.
One of their members is Viktor. He holds a steady job as a building site inspector but in his role with the Slav Union commands a squad of fifteen activists, trained in knife combat and martial arts.
He told RT: “There is a place for hard-line methods. You know what I am talking about? Whatever the immigrants do to us, we'll do to them. We are preparing our men. If they come out on the battlefield, we will match them man for man.”
But more and more of his acquaintances have recently been tried at the Moscow city court. And many are going to spend decades behind bars.
Interior Ministry spokesman Oleg Yelnikov said: “If we suspect something as a hate crime, we put the case under special supervision. We try to make sure that every such case is solved, and the perpetrators are punished accordingly.”
But independent observers say that while the federal government and some local police forces have homed in on these crimes, others are turning a blind eye.
Kamildjan Kalandarov of the Human Rights Institute said: “Unfortunately, a lot of people who are meant to be fighting these crimes actually share the nationalist views of the criminals. And a lot of the politicians pander to certain moods prevalent in society.”
Nevertheless, with the increased pressure on his organization, Viktor admits that some of his associates have started to desert.
“The authorities are tightening the screws, but for those who truly believe, this only makes them more determined. And those who are leaving were only doing it for the image.”
Viktor is one of those who will stay to the end. But more than ever, the authorities know who he is, and the end may come sooner than he thinks.