Student arrested over Russian neo-Nazi 'execution' video

Footage of migrants' murder believed genuine. Concern over rise of far-right violent attacks

The Guardian, UK/August 16, 2007

Russian police arrested a student yesterday for posting a video on the internet which appears to show the execution-style killing by neo-Nazis of two migrant workers. Human rights activists said they believed the horrific footage posted on a far-right website on Sunday was genuine. It shows two men with their mouths gagged and hands tied behind their backs. They are kneeling in front of a red and black swastika flag in an unidentified Russian forest. A caption says one of the men is from Tajikistan and another from Dagestan, in Russia's mainly Muslim south.

With heavy metal music blaring, the video appears to show their final seconds before a masked man hacks off the head of one victim with a hunting knife. Shouting "Glory to Russia", the man then shoots the second victim in the head. He tumbles into a shallow grave. "It looks like this is the real thing. The killing is genuine," said Alexander Verkhovsky, head of Moscow's Sova Centre, which monitors hate crime in Russia."There are similar videos from the Chechen war. But this is the first time the killing appears to have been done intentionally." he added.

The student arrested yesterday in the town of Maykop, the capital of Russia's southern Adygeya region, allegedly admitted posting the video and circulating extremist material. But police sources yesterday suggested that he did not take part in the executions and had received the video from someone else.

"According to preliminary information, he has been distributing this video over the internet but he is not the author of it ... Experts are still working to establish the authenticity of the video," an interior ministry spokesman said.

A Russian neo-Nazi group called the National Socialists of Rus claims to have carried out the murders - describing the unidentified victims as "colonists". But yesterday Mr Verkhovsky said the video could instead be the work of another far-right organisation to discredit its rival.

The lurid two-and-a-half minute footage has appalled much of Russia's vast blogging community, which yesterday appealed for internet users to name the victims. A link to the video appeared on, Russia's most popular social networking website, but was later removed.

The video comes at a time of rising neo-nationalism across Russia - and follow the attack last month by neo-Nazis on an environmental camp in Siberia. One environmental activist died of his injuries and nine were seriously injured. Yesterday a source close to the investigation into a bombing earlier this week which derailed a Moscow to St Petersburg express train said it was the work of radical nationalists, according to Interfax news agency.

Russia has seen a distinct rise in xenophobia and racism in recent years, with numerous attacks on foreigners, many of them from the former Soviet republics in central Asia and the Caucasus.

According to the latest Sova Centre statistics at least 310 people were victims of racist and neo-Nazis crimes between January and the end of July this year - with 37 murders, a 22% increase on last year. Anti-racism campaigners say the true scale of the problem is much bigger and blame official indifference, poor education, and a reluctance on the part of the police to classify blatant neo-Nazi attacks as race crime.

"Politically, neo-Nazi groups are not a big force," said Mr Verkhovsky. "But worryingly they reflect widely held views across society."

A report last year by rights group Amnesty International said violent racism was out of control in Russia.

Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, has condemned racism, but the Amnesty report said the authorities' response to the racially motivated attacks has been "grossly inadequate".

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