Anti-Extremism Agency Proposed

The Prosecutor General's Office on Tuesday proposed creating a separate law enforcement agency to battle extremism.

Addressing the State Duma in hearings on extremism Tuesday, Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin said such an agency is needed because federal and local authorities have been "ineffective" in preventing hate crimes in recent years.

There were 356 extremist crimes registered last year, up from 130 in 2004, Grin said, Interfax reported. Through the first six months of this year, authorities registered 250 extremist crime, 73 of which were committed in Moscow, he said.

The jump is due to an increasing number of hate crimes, even as the number of terrorist acts is falling, he said. From January through June, there were 19 religiously or racially motivated killings in Russia, all but two of which were committed in Moscow, he said.

Grin said the Internet and computer games are being used to promote terrorism and hate crimes. The Internet offers instructions on making explosives and blowing up buildings, while popular computer games promote racially motivated violence, he said.

Duma deputies issued a statement following the hearings calling the spike in hate crimes "a real threat to the foundations of the constitutional system" that "undermines social stability."

It was unclear whether the Prosecutor General's Office had formulated a concrete plan for the proposed agency. A spokeswoman there declined immediate comment Tuesday.

Lawmakers and human rights activists were skeptical about the effectiveness of a new agency to fight extremism.

"This is simply harmful," said Gennady Gudkov, a member of the Duma's Security Committee. "We would be relieving those who should be fighting extremism of their constitutional responsibility."

Galina Kozhevnikova, deputy head of the Sova Center, which tracks hate crimes, said she feared that the proposed agency would be "directed toward the political opposition" and be "a corruption machine."

The actual number of hate crimes in the country is much higher than the figures provided by authorities, Kozhevnikova said.

President Dmitry Medvedev, meanwhile, told Interior Ministry officials in the Kremlin on Tuesday that they must "step up the fight against extremism and ultranationalism."