Racist Violence Up in Ukraine, Russia

Hate crimes in Ukraine have risen dramatically in the past 18 months, according to human rights groups and an Associated Press report.

Sixty racist attacks — six of them fatal — occurred in the former Soviet republic in 2007, according to Amnesty International. In the first three months of 2008, the group reported 29 racist attacks, including two killings. That's up from 12 racist attacks in 2006 and five in 2005, the AP reported. In its travel information, the U.S. State Department advises caution because of an increase in violence directed at non-Europeans and religious minorities.

Government officials refuse to acknowledge the full scope of the problem or to protect those likely to experience racial attacks, a 2008 Amnesty report states.

The Associated Press reported that Ukrainian skinheads are likely getting inspiration and help from similar groups in neighboring Russia, where racist violence is even more pronounced. In June, a gang was charged with 20 racially motivated murders committed over eight months in Moscow. The gang — which consisted of skinheads in their teens and early 20s — targeted people who did not look Slavic.

Also in Russia, one victim of a grisly neo-Nazi double murder has been identified by his family. Shamil Odamanov is believed to be the man beheaded in a video depicting the killing of two ethnic minorities. The three-minute video surfaced last August on several Russian ultranationalist websites and highlighted Russia's enormous problem with race-based violence. Called "Operation of the National-Socialist Party of Russia to Arrest and Execute Two Colonists from Dagestan and Tajikistan," the video opens with sounds of machine-gun fire and shows two men bound and gagged beneath a swastika flag. The man identified as Odamanov is decapitated with a knife, while the second man is shot.