Execution Video Surfaces in Russia

Read the Hatewatch Blog

The video is hard to watch. Just three minutes long, "Operation of the National-Socialist Party of Russia to Arrest and Execute Two Colonists From Dagestan and Tajikistan" opens to the sound of machine-gun fire. Then comes horrifying footage of the grisly execution of two bound and gagged men under a swastika flag. One man is beheaded, and the second is shot in the head.

The videotape surfaced in August on several ultranationalist Russian websites and caused an immediate uproar in Russia, a country that has suffered a near epidemic of racial violence in recent years. Ultranationalist party officials quickly denounced the video, suggesting that it was meant to discredit their cause.

According to The New York Times, the video circulated with a note from a previously unknown organization, the National-Socialist Party of Russia. The note announced that a "military vanguard" had been formed to begin armed attacks on "black colonists and those who support them from the Russian government."

Since the Soviet Union broke up, hundreds of thousands of dark-skinned immigrants from former Soviet republics have traveled to Russia in search of work, sparking ethnic tensions with ethnic Slavs that have frequently erupted in violence.

Russian hate crime experts and police officials initially said the video appeared to depict real murders. But in late October, the official Rossiskaya Gazeta reportedly said Interior Ministry officials now believed the video was fake.

Not everyone accepted that verdict. The videotape clearly shows two men who seem obviously terrified, on their knees in a forest under a swastika flag. All of a sudden, a man lunges toward one of them with a large knife. What follows is more than a minute of graphic footage of the attacker sawing his victim's head off as the man moans and bloods spurts from his neck. The masked attacker then poses the victim's severed head atop his body. To many, it was hard to see how the close-up shots of the beheading and the victim's head could possibly have been faked.