06/06/2008, 00.00
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More than 50 people arrested in six months for xenophobic attacks

According to Interior Ministry data 38 attacks have taken place resulting in 17 deaths. Human rights groups have challenged such figures, saying the real number is much higher, complaining that the wave of racism has not been stopped, partly because of the complicity of the police and political authorities.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Russian authorities have arrested 53 people for violent and deadly attacks, that were racially motivated, the Interior Ministry announced yesterday. For human rights groups though, the authorities have underestimated the actual number of attacks against foreigners and people of colour, and have complained that nothing has been done to stem the tide of xenophobia sweeping the Russian Federation.

Gennady Ivanov, head of the ministry's criminal investigations department, said that the 53 suspects include members of 11 separate gangs and are responsible for 38 violent attacks—including 17 murders—against foreigners in Moscow, St Petersburg and their respective regions.

All the victims were non-Slavs, including 19 citizens of either China or former Soviet republics.

Just from January through March in all four regions the Ministry recorded 101 attacks against foreigners, including 31 murders.

Organisations that track hate crimes have noted a significant spike in racist attacks this year, and their data are very different from those of the government.

According to the Russian NGO Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, no less than 117 xenophobic or religiously motivated assaults took place with at least 65 people killed and 124 wounded.

In a recent article in Novaya Gazeta, Alexander Brod, director of another NGO that monitors racism and anti-Semitism, warns that some politicians are openly inciting xenophobia. In the same vain he denounces the police and legal system for their lenient attitude toward such behaviour and for their failure to prosecute or impose stiff sentences, adding that in 25 cities illegal actions have taken place, including praising Hitler and hailing ethnic cleansing.

Despite complaints the authorities have not taken any step against any of these actions.

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