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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Report Says Xenophobia on the Rise

The number of racially motivated murders in Russia more than doubled in 2004 from the previous year, signaling a disturbing rise in xenophobia in the country, a report released by human rights activists said Wednesday.

At least 44 people died as a result of publicly reported racist attacks in Russia in 2004, up from 20 in 2003, said the Sova think tank, which specializes in researching religion, nationalism and racism.

The report cited as evidence several high-profile attacks on foreigners, including the February murders of a 9-year-old Tajik girl in St. Petersburg and a student from Guineau-Bissau in Voronezh.

The report says that skinheads were responsible for the murders of dark-skinned Russian citizens and immigrants from the former Soviet republics, and also of people from Afghanistan, Vietnam, Jordan, China, Korea, Libya and Syria.

The report's author, Sova deputy director Galina Kozhevnikova, said that xenophobia was "becoming more and more ingrained in Russian society, and unfortunately the political atmosphere is exacerbating the situation."

The report also accuses numerous politicians, including those from LDPR and Rodina, of promoting a xenophobic atmosphere by the use of "ethnic-nationalistic rhetoric."

There is no statistical breakdown of racially motivated murders available on the Interior Ministry's web site, which states that the number of crimes of an "extremist nature" actually fell last year to 130, down from 157 in 2003.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Yelena Aninkova declined to comment on the report, but said that the ministry would publish a more detailed breakdown of 2004 crime figures next month.

Police statistics published last month show that 8,500 crimes were committed against foreigners last year.

Rabbi Alexander Lakshin, who was attacked and beaten in Moscow last week, told The Associated Press that the attack was anti-Semitic in nature and reflected rising racism and xenophobia in Russia. "Any person who looks different or dresses differently is under threat," Lakshin said.