Crisis May Spawn Attacks

The Moscow Times

Fascist and skinhead groups will use the economic crisis as an excuse for xenophobia and racist violence, even though no increase in attacks has been detected, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Sova Center, which tracks racist violence, said in the report that at least 14 people have been killed in racist attacks since the start of 2009, a figure in line with violence over the same period last year.

But skinheads and other groups espousing xenophobia have gained clout, evolving from a backwater subculture to an influential movement, said Galina Kozhevnikova, the author of the report.

Young people have started joining nationalist groups, seeking employment, and the groups appear to be well-funded, she said.

The report says pro-Kremlin youth groups are of special concern because of their use of anti-migrant slogans, noting that one of them, Young Guard, held a rally under the banner "Our Money for Our People" last October. It says rallies like these threaten to legitimize racism in society.

Young Guard denied promoting xenophobia and called the Sova report "a political provocation." "We just want to say that it is necessary to take care of Russian citizens, not migrant workers, during the financial crisis," said a senior official with the group, Andrei Tatarinov.

Sova said racist attacks killed 97 people and injured 428 others last year, compared to 85 killed and 605 injured in 2007.