Skinhead gang on trial for racial murders

A gang of youths accused of 20 racially motivated murders and 12 other attempted murders have gone on trial at Moscow’s City Court. Aged between 17 and 22, the suspects are accused of looking for targets in the evenings, assaulting those they deemed non-S

During questioning, one of the gang leaders – Artur Ryno – confessed to nearly 40 racially motivated murders.

One of the accused is underage, and the court has decided that the hearing will be held behind closed doors.

Another is a woman who has asked for the case to be tried by a jury. The court has accepted the plean and jury selection will start on August 22.

Racially motivated crimes have been making headlines in Russia recently and statistics show that 69 people have been killed in hate crimes in the first half of 2008 alone – more than the whole of 2007.

“They would suddenly attack with one purpose only – to kill,” Aleksandr Klimov, crime investigator said.

Only a few months ago, a Moscow court found eight men guilty of blowing up a multi-ethnic market in the capital. The explosion killed 14 people and injured nearly 50. The attackers received sentences ranging from life to two years in prison.

But many believe that more needs to be done to successfully fight xenophobia and racism.

Natalya Rykova from the Human Rights Bureau says the government needs to take a stronger line.

“We need a federal programme to fight xenophobia. Maybe even a national plan, like the one to fight corruption,” she said.