Russian teens jailed for racist murders
December 16, 2008
A Russian court has handed jail terms of up to 20 years to seven members of a teenage group who carried out a string of racially-motivated murders and posted the evidence on the internet.
The 19 murders, carried out between August 2006 and October 2007 in the Moscow region, underlined the growing problem of racist violence in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Artur Ryno and Pavel Skachevsky, seen as the ringleaders of the group, were given 10-year sentences in a penal colony, the maximum the judge could give as they were minors at the time of the crime.
Story continues belowThe 20-year term was handed to Roman Kuzin, born in 1988. Four other members of the group received jail sentences of six to 12 years. Two others had previously been acquitted.
The young men, standing in a glass-walled box and dressed in casual jeans and jumpers, remained impassive as the verdicts were read out. Ryno stared blankly in front while Skachevsky hid his face beneath a baseball hat.
The accused were charged with singling out people of "non-Slavic" appearance and then recording their attacks on video camera before downloading footage onto the internet.
"They killed citizens of Russia, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and China," said prosecutor Marina Semenenko. They had been found guilty of 19 murders and 12 attempted murders, although earlier Russian news agencies had said 20 murders were carried out.
Prosecutors said the young men used knives, baseball bats and metal bars. They communicated through nationalist sites and agreed to act "against people with non-Slavic appearance".
Skachevsky has said he was a "Russian soldier" who was cleansing the city of "occupants".
After his arrest in 2007, Ryno said he "hated from school people from the Caucasus and Asians who oppressed Russians."
Rights groups in Russia say that racist crimes have increased fivefold over the last half-decade.
Earlier this month, the decapitated head of a migrant from Tajikistan was found wrapped in a polythene bag in a rubbish bin outside a local administration building in central Moscow.
A nationalist group claimed the murder, saying it was a warning to the authorities over the growing number of migrants in the Russian capital.
According to the Moscow Human Rights Bureau, 113 people were killed and 340 wounded in a total of 254 racist attacks in Russia from January to October 2008.
Dmitry Agranovski, the lawyer for Skachevsky, said he would be appealing against the verdict and urged people to see the crimes in a wider social context.
"The indictment is based on testimony from my client, so there are attenuating circumstances," he said. "These crimes reflect a social phenomenon which is of massive magnitude and shows a malaise in inter-ethnic relations."
"My client was a brilliant pupil with an ideal character. We should educate young people instead of punishing them," he said.
The gang's last victim was an ethnic Armenian, Karen Abramian, who died from 55 stab wounds. His mother Assia said the sentences were too lenient.
"They sent minors to kill because they knew they could not be given heavy punishments. I want the mother of the person who did this to suffer like me."
Of the murders recorded by the Moscow Human Rights Bureau between January and October, the largest number was recorded in Moscow and its region where 48 people were killed, followed by St Petersburg and Leningrad region where 19 lives were claimed by racist murders.
Citizens of the Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were those worst affected by the violence, data published on its website showed