MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian court held preliminary hearings on Thursday in the trial of a skinhead gang whose members are charged with murdering 20 people in racist attacks.
Artur Ryno and Pavel Skachevsky, both aged 17, led seven other skinheads aged between 17 and 22 who mainly attacked migrants from post-Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus.
“The criminal skinhead group is charged with 20 premeditated murders, 12 attempted murders and fomenting racial hatred,” said Moscow City Court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova.
“The skinhead group … will be tried behind closed doors,” she said. “A jury, requested by a female suspect, will be selected on August 22. The trial will be closed because some of the accused have not yet come of age.”
The accused video-taped their attacks on people with darker skin and posted them in the Internet.
Running sequences of some of the violent attacks, Russia’s Vesti-24 channel said that after severely beating their victims the gang would often use a knife to finish them off with a “trademark” stab in the back.
Attacks on foreigners and darker-skinned migrant workers from ex-Soviet republics have become commonplace in today’s Russia, where Jewish cemeteries and synagogues are often desecrated by neo-Nazi vandals. Swastika graffiti can be seen across Russia.
Local anti-fascist campaigners have repeatedly urged the authorities to tackle rising xenophobia and neo-Nazism in Russia, which lost millions of its citizens fighting against fascism during World War Two.