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Racist graffiti on a wall in St. Petersburg, December 2005 (AFP) April 4, 2006 -- A senior Russian Orthodox Church official has blamed the outbreak of hate crimes in Russia on a collapse of morality.


The head of the Russian Orthodox Church's foreign relations department, Metropolitan Kirill, made his comments today at an international conference in Moscow.


"We cannot shed tears about rising xenophobia at a time when we open opportunities for a person, who is not restrained by any moral force, to ravage sacred places, spit on his fatherland, and destroy his culture," Kirill said. "Such a person will go and kill someone else on the basis of race or faith. There is one single and indivisible morality."


Russia has recently seen a growing number racially and ethnically motivated hate crimes.


Last week, a man who assaulted worshippers in a Moscow synagogue was sentenced to 13 years in jail. And earlier today, 13 suspects between the ages of 15- and 19-years-old went on trial over the killing of a Peruvian student in Russia's southwestern city of Voronezh.


The suspects allegedly attacked and killed the 18-year-old Peruvian last October. Three other people -- a Peruvian, a Spaniard, and a Russian -- were wounded.


One of the suspects is charged with racially motivated murder, the rest with robbery and hooliganism. State prosecutor Ivan Kovalyov said the attackers were driven by racial hatred.


"Preliminary investigation agencies believe there is substantial evidence this crime was committed out of ethnic and racial hatred, and that evidence will be presented," he said.


The trial is being held behind closed doors because one of the suspects is a minor.


(AP, ITAR-TASS, Interfax)

Epidemic Of Hate

Yusuf Sultonov, whose 9-year-old daughter was beaten and stabbed to death in St. Petersburg on February 9, 2004 (TASS)

EXTREMISM ASCENDANT: More than half of Russians have xenophobic views, according to a report published in August 2005. In the report, rights groups say that -- despite progress in some areas -- racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism remain rife in Russia. But what worries watchdogs most are recent moves by nationalist-patriotic movements to form paramilitary groups....(more)


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