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28 May, 2008 00:41

Government urged to fight racist thugs

Russian human rights groups are calling on the government to create a special federal programme to curb the sharp rise in racist attacks. Seventy-two people have been killed in racially motivated crimes since the beginning of 2008. The number already exce

Hundreds have been injured and thousands more are so frightened they are unable to lead normal lives.
Although there are demands for changes in Russian legislation, new laws on the issue are not expected.

Natalya Rykova of the Bureau for Human Rights says a special programme is needed to fight hate crime in Russia:  “We need a federal programme to fight xenophobia. Maybe even a national plan like the one fighting corruption,” she said.  
However, Russia’s legal system is reacting to the situation, albeit slowly.

Moscow's court found eight men guilty of blowing up the Cherkizovo market in the capital in August 2006, an attack that killed 14 and injured nearly 50 – most of them immigrants. Those found guilty received sentences ranging from life to two years in prison.

More and more cases are coming to court, and those found guilty of racism are getting lengthy prison terms.

Director of the Institute of Globalisation, Boris Kagarlitsky, says Russia needs to do more to successfully fight xenophobia and racism: “The steps authorities are taking today are steps towards a more tolerant future for Russia. But it’s not only the legislation – it’s people's tolerance that needs to change. And that is a lot harder than passing new laws,” he said.