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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yelling ‘Beat Blacks’ Not Ethnic Hatred

St. Petersburg investigators said Friday that the severe beating of a Kyrgyz teenager in February was not motivated by ethnic hatred, even though the attackers shouted “Beat the Blacks!” and “Russia for Russians!”

Stunned human rights activists accused investigators of incompetence and voiced concern that nationalists might point to the case to justify their use of similar slogans.

A linguistic expertise ordered by investigators into the Feb. 14 beating of ninth-grader Tagir Kerimov found “no signs of extremism or national hatred in the actions of the attackers,” the St. Petersburg branch of the Investigative Committee said in a statement posted Friday on its web site.

The statement provided no further details of the attack, and a spokeswoman for the St. Petersburg branch, Yulia Kazakova, refused to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation and “enormous public attention” to the case.

Gazeta.ru reported that a group of 25 to 30 young men attacked Kerimov and a friend, also a native of Kyrgyzstan, on a street in St. Petersburg, shouting the derogatory word “khuch,” which is used by nationalists to refer to migrants from Central Asia and the North Caucasus, Gazeta.ru reported, citing a lawyer for Kerimov’s family, Dmitry Dinze.

The attackers, shouting “Kill the khuch” and “Beat the khuch,” as well as “Beat the Blacks” and “Russia for Russians,” knocked Kerimov down to the ground and kicked him repeatedly in the head, causing a severe brain injury that left the teenager in a coma for several months, Gazeta.ru reported.

Five suspected attackers have been detained, Gazeta.ru said.

Repeated calls to Dinze’s cell phone went unanswered.

At the request of investigators, an expert with the Center for Forensic Expertise for the northwestern federal district, Yelena Kiryukhina, examined the slogans for signs of ethnic hatred.

Kiryukhina concluded that she could not say for sure whether the slogans were xenophobic because she lacked information about the “motives” of the attackers, a co-worker of hers told The Moscow Times. Kiryukhina refused to comment on the case.

Alexander Brod, head of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, accused both investigators and Kiryukhina of unprofessionalism and cautioned that nationalists could use the findings to defend themselves in court.  

Nikolai Svanidze, who heads the Public Chamber’s commission on ethnic relations, promised that his commission would study the case.

Alexander Verkhovsky, head of the Sova Center, which tracks hate crimes, said investigators violated the Criminal Procedural Code by asking a linguistic expert to examine the slogans. “Such things are done to shift the responsibility onto somebody else,” he said.