Skinheads Attack Rock Fest

A 14-year-old girl was killed and dozens of people injured when around 100 skinheads rampaged through a rock concert crowd in central Russia Aug. 29, according to international newswires.

Local media reports say shooting was also heard as a crowd of angry bare-chested skinheads, armed with batons, sticks and iron rods, forced their way through security cordons at the Tornado Festival in Miass, about 850 miles east of Moscow.

Fourteen ambulances were called to the scene, according to state news channel Rossiya-24. Some newswires reported that police stood back and watched the attacks and made no effort to intervene. The ITAR-Tass news agency said local police refused to comment.

Attacks on dark-skinned foreigners in Moscow and St Petersburg by Russia’s neo-Nazi skinhead movement have been relatively common in recent years. The Moscow Bureau for Human Rights has estimated that some 70,000 neo-Nazis are active in Russia — compared with a just few thousand in the early 1990s.

Neo-Nazi and other ultra-nationalist groups mushroomed in Russia after the 1991 Soviet collapse. The influx of immigrant workers and two wars with Chechen separatists triggered xenophobia and a surge in hate crimes.

The January 2009 murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasiya Baburova prompted a Kremlin crackdown on ultranationalists, who were blamed for the killings.

In April, a Moscow court banned the far-right Slavic Union, whose Russian acronym SS intentionally mimicked that used by the Nazis’ infamous paramilitary. The group was declared extremist and shut down.

At the time leader Dmitry Demushkin told the Associated Press the group tried to promote its far-right agenda legally and warned that the ban would enrage and embolden Russia’s most radical ultranationalists.

The movement is so deeply embedded in the country’s culture that militant groups have sprouted up around Russia to fight it. Anti-racist groups regularly spearhead attacks on ultranationalists, sparking revenge assaults in an intensifying clash of ideologies.

Racially motivated attacks, often targeting people from Caucasus and Central Asia, peaked in 2008, when 110 were killed and 487 wounded, according to independent watchdog Sova.