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Russian Nationalists Sentenced For Staging Mock Killings

MOSCOW -- A Moscow court has sentenced the leader of the nationalist group Format 18, Maksim Martsinkevich, to three-and-a-half years in prison for staging the mock killing of a person described as a Tajik national.

Fellow group member Artem Zuyev was also sentenced to three years in prison. The two defendants were found guilty of promoting racial hatred.

Format 18 had posted a video on the Internet showing some 20 members of the nationalist group wearing hoods while performing the mock murder of a person they claimed was a Tajik drug dealer.

The group regularly posts videos on the Internet showing racially-motivated attacks.

Martsinkevich, 23, known by the nickname Tesak, was previously sentenced for disrupting a Yabloko Party conference in November 2007.

Experts say it is likely that some of the videos of purported killings and beatings posted on the Internet are not just staged acts, but are actual crimes committed by Format 18 and other groups.