Six alleged associates of the notorious Russian antigay ultranationalist, Maksim Martsinkevich, whose death in custody in September sparked allegations of foul play, have been charged with the murders of several individuals from Central Asia.
A spokeswoman of the Investigative Committee, Svetlana Petrenko, said on December 23 that the six men, Andrei Kail, Aleksandr Lysenkov, Maksim Khotulev, Pavel Khrulyov-Myshkin, Aleksei Gudilin, and Semyon Tokmakov, had been apprehended in the cities of Moscow, Sochi, and Tyumen in a joint probe by the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service.
According to Petrenko, the six have been charged with being involved in the "murders of two or more people motivated by ethnic hatred" with regard to a series of murders of people from Central Asia in the mid-2000s.
"One of those who took direct part in the murders was the former leader of the rightist radical groups -- Format 18 and Restrukt -- Maksim Martsinkevich," Petrenko said.
The 36-year-old Martsinkevich, also known by his nickname Tesak (Machete), was found dead in a detention center in the city of Chelyabinsk in September.
Officials said Martsinkevich committed suicide, hinting that he may have been driven to that move by a confession in connection with ethnically charged killings in the mid-2000s, for which Martsinkevich faced a possible life sentence.
Martsinkevich had since said in prison that he had abandoned his neo-Nazi views.
In addition to his Format 18 activities, Martsinkevich founded a homophobic group called Occupy Pedophilia, whose aim was to "cure" homosexuals.
Russian authorities opened an investigation against him after several videos showing Martsinkevich and his followers humiliating and beating gays circulated on the Internet in 2013.
In December 2018, a court in Moscow found Martsinkevich guilty of robbery and hooliganism and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
Before that, Martsinkevich had been convicted three times on extremism charges.
Requests by Martsinkevich's parents, who said their son was murdered while in custody, to launch a probe into his death have been rejected by Russian authorities.