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Sentences For Russian Skinheads In Racial Murders Criticized As 'Derisory'

Members of the group listen to the verdict in the Moscow City Court.
(RFE/RL) -- A Moscow court has sentenced a group of Russians skinheads after they were found guilty of murdering as many as 20 non-Slavic migrants over a one-year period.

The seven defendants were handed prison sentences ranging from six to 20 years.

The Moscow City Court sentenced Artur Ryno, the group's 17-year-old ringleader, to 10 years at a "general-security correctional colony."

Pavel Skachevsky, seen as the gang's co-leader, also received a 10-year-sentence, the maximum the court could give him as a minor.

The verdict has nonetheless angered rights campaigners, who denounced its leniency.

"In my opinion, the sentence is derisory compared to the crime -- it amounts to less than half a year [in prison] per murder victim," said Galina Kozhevnikova, an expert at Sova, an independent group that monitors hate crimes in Russia.

"Besides, the killings were carried out in group and with the motive of racial hatred, which means with aggravating circumstances," she noted. "These people have already served one year; in four years, they will walk free early. Healthy, 25-year-old men with 20 corpses under their belt will walk free."

Serial Killings

The defendants have willingly admitted to the 20 murders they were convicted of. In fact, Ryno himself has claimed responsibility for the deaths of at least 37 people.

The group targeted non-Slavic migrants in Moscow between 2006 and 2007, posting videos of some of their crimes on the Internet. They were also found guilty of 12 attempted murders.

During the closed-door trial, Ryno and Skachevsky said they were on a mission to "cleanse Russian blood."

Another defendant confessed to being a great admirer of Andrei Chikatilo, the famous Soviet serial killer who murdered and cannibalized 52 women and children.

Artyom Timushev, one of the defense lawyers, said he was pleased with the trial's outcome.

"I think this case has been quite a success because, while the charges were very serious, none of the defendants, four of whom were of full legal age, received the most severe punishment, that is life imprisonment," Timushev said.

According to Sova, racially motivated attacks have claimed at least 86 lives in Russia this year.