The Moscow Times reports that eight youths have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in at least twenty racist murders.
According to MT: "Investigators believe that the suspects, who were not named, are members of a gang of skinheads led by Artur Ryno, a student from Yekaterinburg who was detained in May and confessed to 37 murders of dark-skinned people in a bid to 'clean up the city.'"
Details to follow when I get back from the archive and start digging.
[UPDATE #1: Graphic from Komsomolskaya Pravda]
Nothing more substantive than the Moscow Times report has appeared in English. The Russian-language news, however, has considerable coverage. I am currently digesting the reports and background, but here's an interesting graphic from KP:
Translation: "Number of Skinheads Detained in Moscow"
"There are 29 skinheads altogether on this list. Of them, nine are university students, 3 are high school students, 6 attend vocational schools and 11 are unemployed. Twenty-three grew up in families without a father, 6 were from normal, well-off families, and one has a psychiatric record. They have murdered 46 people. The maximum number of injuries to one victim is 91. The average number of injuries per victim is 40."
[UPDATE #2: Review of Russian-language Coverage]
In April 2007, two skinheads were arrested following brutal attacks on a young Tadjik and a middle-aged Armenian businessman. Teenager Artur Ryno, a student in Moscow from Ekaterinaburg, soon admitted to participation in 37 murders of non-Russians. Though he later recanted this confession, detectives noted that he had given precise addresses and accounts of the murders. Pavel Skachevskii, on the other hand, denied any wrong-doing from the outset.
After Ryno and Skachevskii’s arrests, three more from their band were arrested in November. In the past two weeks, another four have been arrested on charges of murder and “fomenting inter-ethnic strife” (razzhiganie mezhnatsional’noi rozni): 18-year-old Denis Lavrenenkov, 19-year-old Ivan Kitaikin, 21-year-old Svetlana Avvakumova, and 16-year-old Nikolai Dagaev.
According to the picture put together by investigators, the gang of skinheads around Ryno carried out planned “hunts” of those of non-Slavic appearance, roaming from neighborhood to neighborhood, so as to avoid detection. Groups of two to five would gather and head out to bedroom communities around Moscow in the evenings. They would either provoke a fight, or simply attack a dark-skinned person from behind. Victims have included men and women, Russian-citizens and foreigners, white-collar workers and gastarbeitery. The victims were typically stabbed more than twenty times. When Ryno was first interviewed by detectives, he claimed that there had been many witnesses, but nobody ever tried to interfere with an attack.
One of the accused, Denis Lavrenenkov, had also been detained in late 2006 after the detonation of a home-made bomb in the entryway of a young anti-fascist activist, according to KP. He was released for lack of evidence.
Ryno’s gang is but one of many in a country that hosts thousands of skinheads. Another gang accused in the murder of Yakut chess-master Sergei Nikolaev (previously mentioned at MTBE here) heads to court soon. And just a day after the arrest of the four skinheads in Moscow, the body of a Kyrgyz man was found Wednesday evening with over thirty stab wounds. Kyrgyz officials, after the murder of five of their citizens thus far in 2008, have formally requested that Russian officials solve these crimes as soon as possible and prosecute them to the full extent of the law, should racist motives be found.
As Sean’s Russia Blog noted yesterday, Putin has publicly condemned rising ethnic violence as a threat to law and order. Whether this declaration will be translated into the effective prosecution of hate crimes remains to be seen.
[UPDATE #3: Task Force Formed Says Kommersant]
According to Kommersant, a task force has been assembled by the Moscow police to investigate the recent surge in suspected hate crimes and racially-motivated murders.