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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Racist Attack Puts Police In Spotlight

Moscow is a great place to be a skinhead. If you're in a bad mood, or if you're out to celebrate Hitler's birthday, you can just reach out and punch somebody with impunity -- particularly if that somebody is an African, a Caucasian or anyone with skin darker than your own. If the police catch you, chances are they'll understand. They sometimes punch somebody, too.

Unless, of course, that somebody also happens to be a U.S. citizen and a U.S. Embassy employee. A skinhead called "Boose," whose real name is Semyon Takmanov, learned that the hard way Saturday, when he and three friends targeted a black U.S. Marine who happened into their path at the Fili flea market. They knocked him to the ground and repeatedly kicked him, yelling racial epithets.

Boose might have gotten away with it, but he was stupid enough to wave his bloody fist and brag about his escapade on national television. The police were left with no choice but to arrest him.

"The skinheads were unlucky," Alexei Ogorelyshev, deputy head of criminal investigations for the Fili Park police precinct, was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times. "They picked on the wrong person, who turned out to be a U.S. citizen and a U.S. Embassy employee. It is a rather explosive combination. This means they have gotten themselves in a lot of trouble."

Hopefully, they'll get the police and the Moscow authorities in a lot of trouble as well. Ogorelyshev's candid statement -- which suggests that if the skinheads had just beaten up some other black guy, that would have been all right -- exemplifies the criminal complicity of police in a city where racial violence is not only rapidly increasing, but seems to be a matter of official policy.

Just last month, a group of 20 skinheads severely beat two Asian women near a central Moscow boulevard. Attacks on Africans and other minorities are commonplace. Statistics are sketchy, because few are willing to report the assaults to police, who have a well-deserved reputation of racial prejudice. During Moscow's 850th anniversary celebrations last year, for example, the daughter of a Kenyan diplomat said that she was stopped, robbed, beaten and thrown into the Moscow River by police. Helsinki Human Rights Watch has recorded many similar complaints.

Top politicians such as Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov don't have much motivation to improve the situation: The victims, after all, are usually not voters, and for most voters racism isn't a problem, it's a way of life.

Thus, in a sense, Moscow's minorities are lucky that Boose decided to beat up an American. At least now Western media and diplomats are paying attention.