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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

4 Teenagers Convicted, Sentenced for Killing

Four Russian teenagers were convicted and sentenced to prison terms Thursday for fatally beating an Asian man in an attack the judge said was fueled by ethnic hatred.

The victim, a Russian citizen of Vietnamese descent, was beaten to death last April in Ostrogozhsk, about 475 kilometers south of Moscow.

Judge Vladimir Mozgovoi of Ostrogozhsk District Court sentenced the four defendants -- aged from 15 to 16 years old -- to 4 1/2 to 7 years in prison.

Three other young men also took part but were cleared of charges since they were under age 14 at the time, he said.

Russia has seen a marked rise in xenophobia and racism in recent years, with a series of attacks on dark-skinned residents, foreigners and Jews. Last year, 48 people were killed and another 429 injured in apparent hate crimes, according to the Sova rights center.

Rights groups say authorities do little to combat the crimes. Alla Gerber, head of the Holocaust Foundation, said law enforcement officials have become more efficient in prosecuting hate crimes but Russia remains plagued by racism.

"On the whole, xenophobic sentiments, including anti-Semitism, have definitely become stronger," Gerber said, Interfax reported.

Also Thursday, preliminary hearings began in the trial of two men involved in a fight that touched off a wave of mob-driven ethnic violence in a northwestern town in September.

The two face charges of hooliganism for allegedly beating a barman at a local restaurant in the town of Kondopoga, NTV television reported.

The violence, which left two people dead, saw angry crowds, blaming local Chechens for the killings, burn the restaurant where the fight occurred as well as stores owned by Chechens and other migrants from the Caucasus region.