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Russia hate crimes decrease in 2009: rights group

[JURIST] Russian racial hate crimes decreased slightly in 2009 [press release] because of increased police efforts, according to the SOVA Center [advocacy website] on Wednesday. According to the group, 71 people were killed and 333 wounded in racially motivated attacks in 2009, down from 110 killed and 487 wounded in 2008. Deputy head of SOVA Galina Kozhevnikova credited the first decrease in hate crimes in the last six years [Moscow Times report] to a combination of revised legislation, extended criminal trials, and enhanced police tactics. Despite the lower violent crime statistics, Sova's annual report also noted the increasing volume of xenophobic propaganda [AP report], particularly among right-wing, political youth groups.

Last year, the SOVA Center reported a slight rise in hate crimes in 2008 after a 13 percent rise in hate crimes in 2007 [JURIST reports]. Kozhevnikova criticized Russian authorities at the time for not responding to the increase in violence, saying that many hate crimes were only prosecuted as incidents of hooliganism, which would carry a lighter sentence than hate crimes. In 2008, Human Rights First [advocacy website] published a hate crime survey [text] that called attention to the then increasing number of violent crimes against immigrants and non-Slavic people in Russia.

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