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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Jail for Nationalist Leader Found Guilty of Hate Speech

A Moscow court on Thursday convicted the ex-leader of the radical Movement Against Illegal Immigration, or DPNI, of hate speech at an ultranationalist rally two years ago and handed him an 18-month suspended sentence.

The Dorogomilovsky District Court convicted Alexander Belov, 33, of inciting ethnic hatred with derogatory statements about natives of the Caucasus in his 2007 speech at the ultranationalist demonstration, his group said.

Belov was given a suspended prison term for inciting ethnic hatred, the group said on its web site. The court also handed him two years probation.

Should Belov be convicted of a crime within two years, he will be forced to serve the entirety of the 18-month sentence in prison in addition to whatever punishment he might receive for the second crime.

Belov will appeal the verdict within 10 days, the group said.

Belov resigned as the movement's leader in April because of the charges.

Meanwhile, a senior prosecutor said Russia has seen a rise in racially and religiously motivated crimes in recent years.

Authorities registered 187 such crimes nationwide in the first four months of this year, compared to 460 for all of last year, Vyacheslav Sizov, head of a department dealing with interethnic relations at the Prosecutor General's Office, told RIA-Novosti.

These crimes are increasingly being committed by young people, Sizov said. There are some 200 ultranationalist groups nationwide with a total of up to 10,000 members, Sizov said.

Nationalists hold so-called "Russian Marches" annually across the country on Nov. 4, People's Unity Day, a holiday created by President Vladimir Putin in 2005 to commemorate the liberation of Moscow from Polish invaders in 1612.

The holiday replaced another national holiday, the anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, which had been celebrated on Nov. 7.

City Hall has authorized nationalist Russian Marches -- where Belov made his incendiary comments -- three out of the past four years.