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24 Feb, 2008 12:35

Number of race killings doubles in Moscow

Moscow police have detained 13 teenagers suspected of attacking a young Azeri man on Saturday night. The assault is the latest in a string of apparently racially motivated attacks, which have seen a dramatic increase this year.

'Out of control!' is how Amnesty International describes xenophobia in Russia in recent years.

2008 has been a deadly year for ethnic minorities – 23 people have already been killed in racist attacks. Sixty-seven people died in 2007 because of the colour of their skin.

The capital's mayor is calling for calm, but community leaders and human rights campaigners are calling for the racist violence to be tackled. More than half the killings in 2008 have been in Moscow. The victims were Tajiks, Kyrgyzs, Uzbeks, Azeris – potentially migrant workers, employed on construction sites and market stalls for low wages.

Ultra-nationalists or skinheads are often accused of racist violence. But racist crimes are also being committed by those who feel economically and socially disadvantaged by the influx of immigrants. And there are those who have picked up their racist beliefs from an early age at home.

Footages of attacks appear on the internet and are watched by the thousands of youngsters across Russia.

Disturbingly, it's claimed some of these recent killings were even paid for.

Moscow is a home to 11 million residents – a fifth or more of those unlawfully. Illegal immigration is linked with the drugs trade and theft. Crime by non-Russians is increasing year on year, and nationalists seize upon this fact.

“Migrants come here. They settle on our territory and take our jobs. Then we are accused of bad treatment towards them. Their deaths are made public. But what about the Russians being killed?” wonders Aleksey Kanurin from Russia’s Movement against Illegal Migration.

Meanwhile, those trying to stop the violence, do so at great personal risk. A human rights observer, Galina's picture was posted on a neo-Nazi website, with a message to kill her.

Changes to the criminal code were made last summer, which now recognise racially-motivated crimes, adding to existing laws on extremism. Human rights experts say if applied more rigorously, they'll be enough to, eventually, act as a deterrent.

The Heads of States of several CIS countries chose to raise their citizens' concerns at this week's informal CIS summit.

President Putin, in response, pledged Russia will continue fighting against xenophobia.