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Skinheads Charged With Hate Crimes In St. Petersburg

Rights groups say skinhead activity has increased in Russia in recent years
Rights groups say skinhead activity has increased in Russia in recent years
ST. PETERSBURG -- St. Petersburg officials have charged 25 young men belonging to an alleged skinhead group with hate crimes and attacks on people that resulted in two deaths, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The skinhead group, which is allegedly led by Andrei Linok, was charged with 12 attacks on non-Slavic people. Investigators said Linok -- who is among the 25 detainees -- created the group via the Internet in 2007. The group members are all Russian men between 17 and 23 years of age.

Yevgeny Vyshenkov, the deputy chairman of the Russian-based Investigative Journalism Agency, told RFE/RL that citizens of Uzbekistan, Armenia, and also Russian citizens from the republics of Tuva and Karelia were among the group's victims.

The group -- which conducted its attacks in the summer and fall of 2007 -- is also alleged to have attacked Asians and Africans. Many of the attacks were filmed by the group.

Many of the attack videos were used by police to aid in the arrest of the suspects in November 2007.

Vyshenkov said that neo-Nazis and skinheads in Russia recently stopped openly displaying symbols or wearing clothes that indicate their ties to extremist groups.

"They are not wearing such signs as the swastika, leather jackets, or [certain] hats anymore," he said. "They now wear normal civilian clothes and it has become difficult to prevent their attacks and locate them [afterwards]."

Investigators say Linok was recruiting people for his group to propagate ultranational and racist ideology.

The trial is expected to begin soon, though no date was available.