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Russian Group Says Hate-Crime Drop Shows Extremist Group Transformation

Radical nationalists rally in Moscow on National Unity Day in November.

Radical nationalists rally in Moscow on National Unity Day in November.

MOSCOW -- A Russian rights organization says that although the official number of hate crimes in the country has recently decreased, it is because nationalist groups have gone underground or transformed into "terrorist" organizations, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The Moscow-based Sova Center said on July 8 that just two people were victims of hate crimes in Russia in June, whereas two people were killed and 29 wounded in June 2009.

But Aleksandr Brod, the head of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, said the year-on-year decrease recently observed does not necessarily mean there was less radical-nationalist behavior in Russia.

Brod told RFE/RL that the decrease in hate crimes is normal because most nationalist groups in Russia have become more covert or have become more dangerous "terrorist organizations."

"Definitely radical-nationalists are committing fewer crimes against ethnic minorities and immigrants," he said. "The new structure and training of the police [force] has been a major help [in this trend]."

Brod added that he thought these groups have shifted their focus from attacking ethnic minorities to threatening law enforcement agencies, human rights activists, lawyers, and judges.

"This is not simple terrorism, but terrorism with a political hue," he said. "They want to seize power. They think the current government is anti-Russian. In some ways what happened in Primorsky Krai is a partisan war."

At the end of May, a gang dubbed the "Russian Rambos" by the media allegedly made several attacks on police in the far eastern Primorsk region. Many locals sided with the gang, citing police corruption and rampant bribe taking and harassment against them as the reason.

Political scientist Vladimir Pribylovsky says that he doubts the recent decrease in registered hate crimes is the result of a pan-Russian police action against extremist groups, as the reduction did not necessarily reflect a long-term trend.