Dozens Arrested in Possible Hate Crimes in Year to Date

Authorities have arrested 53 suspects this year for violent and deadly attacks against dark-skinned foreigners across four regions, the Interior Ministry said Thursday.

The suspects include members of 11 separate gangs that have carried out a total of 38 violent attacks -- including 17 murders -- against foreigners in Moscow, the Moscow region, St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region, said Gennady Ivanov, head of the ministry's criminal investigations department.

"Their involvement in other similar crimes is being investigated," Ivanov said, Itar-Tass reported.

One of the gangs was responsible for the 17 murders and 17 other attacks on foreigners of non-Slavic appearance, Ivanov said. Of the gang's victims, 19 were citizens of either China or former Soviet republics.

It was unclear in which of the four regions the gang is believed to have murdered the foreigners. Repeated calls to the ministry's criminal investigations department for comment went unanswered Thursday.

The ministry registered 101 attacks on foreigners, including 31 murders, in the four regions from January through March, Ivanov said, Itar-Tass reported. Investigators have solved 19 of the murders and 11 of the other attacks, he said.

Organizations that track hate crimes have noted a significant spike in racist attacks this year.

n Relatives of a Dagestani man whose apparent execution was filmed and posted last year on ultranationalist web sites has been identified as Shamil Udamanov, who had been working in Moscow before he disappeared, Interfax reported Thursday.

The video showed two dark-skinned men gagged and bound and identified as a Dagestani and a Tajik. A masked man proceeds to slit their throats with a hunting knife, and one of the men is shot in the head.