Putin Keeps Extremism on Agenda

President Vladimir Putin ordered Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov to crack down on extremist violence Monday, as a third victim of last week's racist rampage in southern Moscow died.

"What do we all have to do to act more effectively?" Putin said at a Cabinet meeting, Interfax reported.

It was the second time in less than a week that Putin has turned his attention to the problem of racial violence. On Friday, he told Justice Minister Yury Chaika to speed up work on a law against extremism and to look for ways to curb the violence.

But any effort to tackle hate crimes faces a major obstacle: a lack of accurate national statistics. Police, who are reluctant to document crimes in general, say they have no separate classification system for racist crimes.

Nongovernmental organizations, which are at the forefront of the fight for human and ethnic-minority rights, say limited resources and a lack of cohesion stunt their efforts to document the prevalence of hate crimes nationwide.

Anecdotal evidence of hate crimes is plentiful, and the president of the Association of Foreign Students of Russia, Gabriel Kotchofa, said earlier this year that violence was escalating. Statistics, however, only trickle out in bits and pieces from the various NGOs.

For three years the Moscow Helsinki Group has produced annual reports on general human rights abuses in Russia. The Anti-Defamation League puts out newletters and reports that contain data on anti-Semitic violence. And the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy has reported on racially motivated attacks against Africans in Russia.

"Each and every committee or organization has its own data on attacks on its particular community, but at this point there is no nationwide project or effort to collect data or monitor the situation," said Yury Dzhibladze, president of the Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights.

But Dzhibladze and others in the NGO community are trying to change that. Last year they created the Russian NGO Network Against Racism, Ethnic Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance, which now has 70 members.

One of the network's goals is to coordinate the collection and compilation of data on hate crimes nationwide, but it faces several hurdles, Dzhibladze said. Not only is such a project expensive, but it requires human rights and ethnic-minority groups to agree on a definition of hate crimes.

Alexander Axelrod, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League's Moscow office, agreed that it will not be easy. "The problems we are representing are quite different," he said. "That's why it's difficult."

Still, the network is making progress. In September, the Moscow Helsinki Group decided to add the monitoring of racially motivated attacks and crimes to next year's human rights report, according to Dzhibladze. "It will not be a focused or in-depth monitoring," he said. "But it will be an important first step."

About 300 young people, many with shaven heads, tore through market stalls in Tsaritsyno last Tuesday, attacking dark-skinned vendors. Tajikistan-born Karam Dzhanmamedov, 18, died Monday in a Moscow hospital from severe head injuries, The Associated Press reported.