Page last updated at 22:31 GMT, Thursday, 25 February 2010

Neo-Nazi skinheads jailed in Russia for racist killings

By Artyom Liss
BBC News, Moscow

Skinhead - file photo
More than 70 people were killed by skinhead gangs in Russia in 2009

A court in Moscow has sentenced nine members of a neo-Nazi skinhead gang to prison terms of up to 23 years.

The gang members, most in their late teens, were found guilty of a string of brutal and very public murders.

The skinheads targeted people of Central Asian origin and posted videos of their attacks on the Internet.

Russia has seen a surge of racially-motivated attacks in recent years. In 2009 alone, neo-Nazis are believed to have killed more than 70 people.

'Wrong accent'

The nine neo-Nazis called themselves "The White Wolves".

They sought out Central Asian migrants, and attacked them in Moscow's back streets.

They clubbed some of their victims to death with wooden planks and killed others by repeatedly stabbing them with knives and screwdrivers.

In one case, a glazier from Kyrgyzstan was stabbed 73 times, as the gang members shouted "Russia for the Russians!" and filmed the murder on their mobile phones.

The jury heard the gang was responsible for at least 11 killings, possibly even more.

And so - after five months of deliberations - came the prison terms: Twenty-three years for the gang leader and up to nine years for the others - the maximum prison term allowed in Russia for underage criminals.

Human rights activists have welcomed the sentencing.

They admit that the police are now cracking down on skinhead gangs.

But even so, last year alone, dozens were killed, and hundreds injured simply for not looking Slavic, and for speaking with a foreign accent.

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