Rostov Man May Face 2 Years for Hate Texts

A Rostov region man is facing up to two years in prison for hate speech for purportedly sending text messages to hundreds of cell phones calling for ethnic Russians to be killed, prosecutors said Thursday.

Over the course of two weeks last summer, the suspect, himself an ethnic Russian, sent text messages to 400 strangers that read, "Death to Russian pigs," Vladimir Khudorsky of the Volgodonsk City Prosecutor's Office said by telephone.

Several of the recipients reported the messages to police, who subsequently detained the 20-year-old suspect based on information provided from his cell phone provider, Khudorsky said.

The suspect, who went on trial Wednesday, has cooperated with investigators but has thus far been unable to explain why he sent the messages, Khudorsky said.

While rare, there have been at least two cases in recent years in which the authorities have charged suspects with disseminating hate speech via text messages.

Galina Kazhevnikova, deputy head of the Sova Center, which tracks hate crimes in Russia, said racial tensions run high in the Rostov region and that text messages calling for aggression against ethnic Russians could have triggered a violent backlash against ethnic minorities.