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Police Say Racists Killed 26 In Moscow Last Year

Graffiti on a St. Petersburg wall that read "Against Racism" has been scratched out, now stating only "Racism."
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Racially motivated attacks killed 26 people in the Russian capital last year, the city's police chief was quoted as saying today, a day after 1,000 people gathered in Moscow to demand a crackdown on neonationalists.

"Sixty-two attacks targeting people of non-Slavic appearance were registered last year, including 26 murders and 25 instances of deliberate grievous bodily harm," Moscow police chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev was quoted as saying by Interfax.

He did not give comparative figures for the year before.

Russian nationalists are most commonly associated with street attacks on dark-skinned migrant workers.

Antifascist campaigners at the march on January 19 commemorated one year since human rights lawyer Sergei Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova were gunned down in central Moscow in an attack a Russian court blamed on nationalists.

Markelov had represented the mother of an antifascist campaigner in 2006 who he said was killed by neo-Nazis and had fought against the early release of a former Russian tank commander imprisoned for the murder of a Chechen girl.

A far-right group of protesters on January 19 tried to disrupt the march. Wearing balaclavas, they pushed protesters and chanted "forward with the Russian race."

SOVA, a non-governmental organization that tracks racist violence in Russia, says at least 60 people were killed in Russia last year in hate crimes, and 306 were injured.

Police chief Kolokoltsev said joint operations between the police and the FSB, the successor to the KGB, helped "neutralize" 10 extremist criminal groups last year comprising 33 young people. These groups were accused of playing a role in 14 murders and a further 20 attacks, he said.

Kolokoltsev said that apart from a racial motive in 26 killings, many others had been targeted because of their physical appearance.