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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Authorities Urged to Fight Racial Attacks

Amnesty International on Wednesday urged the authorities to crack down on racially motivated attacks and racial intolerance and to change discriminatory registration regulations for foreigners.

The international human rights group said that despite positive statements from President Vladimir Putin and the Prosecutor General's Office in response to an increase in racial intolerance, the problem should be made a priority before it grows out of proportion.

"We understand that the state's hands are full,'' but more needs to be done about prosecuting hate attacks, said Mary Murphy, the author of the group's report on racism and discriminatory practices presented at a news conference Wednesday.

Law enforcement agencies often reflect rather than challenge discriminatory attitudes in society, the report said.

The report documented several instances of racially motivated attacks. In one case, Germaine Soumele Kembou, 37, of Cameroon, was a student at Bauman Technical University when a skinhead gang attacked him last summer in southwestern Moscow. Instead of being hospitalized, Kembou was taken to a police station. He was given medical care only after Cameroon Embassy representatives intervened.

A criminal investigation into the attack is still pending, Kembou said Wednesday.

While his story is tragic, Amnesty representatives said he was fortunate the police had opened the investigation. Government and law enforcement agencies rarely recognize hate crimes as being racially motivated.

Instead, police investigators tend to attribute such attacks as responses to uncontrolled migration, inter-ethnic tensions or just common violence by urban youths. Amnesty's report said this approach allows officials to ignore the human rights abuses involved in the violence.

In almost all criminal cases against skinhead attacks, which tend to target dark-skinned and foreign men, the charges rarely mention racial motives, the group said. Anti-Chechen sentiments in Moscow's skinhead groups remain strong.

According to the Interior Ministry, only 16 skinheads were convicted of hate crimes last year, including five men found guilty of participating in a deadly rampage at Moscow's Tsaritsino market a year earlier. Three people were killed, one of them an Armenian man.

In total, only 31 cases of violent attacks by skinheads were investigated and sent to court last year, a number Amnesty believes is far too low.

Amnesty encourages work promoting tolerance and respect for differences by educating police officers, border guards involved in document checks and other officials who have direct contact with minorities.

Many of those who suffer from law enforcement discrimination and racially motivated crimes turn to the European Court of Human Rights, Murphy said.

"It is not good that cases reached the human rights court. It is a shame to the government,'' she said.