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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Protesters Victims of Skinheads' Revenge

A deadly assault on anti-nuclear protesters in Siberia over the weekend was a revenge attack against anti-fascists who beat up a skinhead two weeks ago, prosecutors said Monday.

Thirteen suspects have been detained in connection with the attack, in which masked assailants armed with metal rods and baseball bats raided the protesters' forest camp near the city of Angarsk early Saturday morning, Alexander Semyonov, spokesman for the Irkutsk Regional Prosecutor's Office, said by telephone Monday.

One activist, Ilya Borodayenko, 26, died of severe head injuries in a hospital a few hours later.

Witnesses said the attackers shouted nationalist slogans and identified their targets as members of the vocal anti-fascist group called Antifa.

Semyonov said Antifa activists had beaten up a skinhead two weeks ago and that Saturday's rampage was a revenge attack.

Hostilities between nationalists and Antifa activists throughout the country have been simmering in recent years, occasionally boiling over into violent encounters, video footage of which has been posted on the Internet.

Some of the 13 suspects have been charged with hooliganism and manslaughter, Semyonov said. Local police said 20 suspects had been detained, Interfax reported.

Two other activists were still being treated in a clinic Monday, Igor Kozlov of the group Autonomous Action, which organized the camp, said by telephone from Irkutsk.

Kozlov said that around 20 activists had been protesting the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Plant and plans to make its operations international.

Russia is planning a uranium enrichment center at the plant, which has previously produced uranium fuel for nuclear power plants. Environmentalists say this will bring a massive increase in the amount of nuclear waste.

The authorities cast doubt on the victims' environmental credentials, however.

"When law enforcement officers examined the camp, no environmental activists were there," Semyonov said.

Furthermore, Semyonov said, some of the attackers probably lacked political motives and merely joined in spontaneously, noting that that they had taken mobile phones and personal belongings of the victims.

Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman of the Russian environmental group Ecodefense, said the camp had nothing to do with the Russian environmentalist movement at all.

"This was a fight with anti-fascists, and it is very bad for us if now the media is reporting that fascists have been attacking environmentalists," Slivyak said in a telephone interview.

Kozlov dismissed Slivyak's criticism, saying that being an environmental activist does not require being tied to a specific organization but rather depended on one's personal convictions.

"Our protest was clearly aimed at the Angarsk plant," he said.

Slivyak said Ecodefense planned a much bigger camp, with up to 100 participants, at the plant later this week. His organization is considering moving the venue further away from Angarsk to reduce the risk of attacks, he said.