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4 Jul, 2007 10:57

Moscow man arrested for 'racist' comments

The leader of a prominent nationalist group has been arrested in Moscow after racist comments at a political debate in February. Maksim Martsinkevich, known as “Tesak”, is now in police custody and faces charges of inciting racial hatred and u

Violence, murder and even attacks on children – the catalogue of hate crimes in Russia is expanding at an alarming rate. And perhaps the most chilling aspect is that it is an organised phenomenon.

As in the case of Tesak, often it is students who that are both perpetrators and victims.

In St Petersburg, African students are often targeted. Thus, attacks in December 2005 killed a young Cameroonian man and Kenyan national. In April 2006 a Senegalese student was found murdered – with a shotgun with a swastika sign left near the scene.

And attacks are not restricted to those who have a chance of fighting back.  In two recent incidents nine-year-old girls were killed – one of mixed Russia and Malian parentage in 2006 and a Tajik girl the previous year.  In a high profile trial – seven were convicted of hooliganism – but none of murder. 

Many felt the jury was not equipped to judge, and the lawyers to prosecute.  Many cite inadequacies in the law as the root of the problem – saying it is almost impossible to prosecute for hate crimes.

The Moscow State Duma is examining a bill on amendments to Russian legislation on extremism – providing new provisions to recognise ideologically and politically motivated offences and to strengthen responsibility for extremism-related crimes.

Human rights groups and anti-fascist protesters are consistent in their indignation and their support for the victims.

For those targeted, often of Caucasian, African or Asian origin, life is a battle against this injustice and a fight for relief from the fear. It remains to be seen what politics and protest can do to help – but impending changes have raised hopes for justice, first of all in the case of Tesak.