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Russian Skins Attack Rights Campaigners

Apparent Neo-Nazis Attack Environmental, Gay Rights Activists

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A new round of attacks, one of them apparently tolerated by police, has highlighted one more time the rise of deadly right-wing extremism in Russia.

This July, one environmental activist was murdered and nine others badly injured when a gang of about 15 apparent neo-Nazi skinheads in Siberia attacked a group of protesters with baseball bats and iron rods. The nonviolent protesters were camped near a nuclear processing plant in the town of Angarsk that they claim will be used to process spent foreign nuclear fuel. Officials have denied that.

Police said later that they had detained eight of the attackers. The Interior Ministry said they were not members of any extremist group, but many of the victims insisted their masked attackers shouted neo-Nazi and nationalist slogans.

A photographer caught a Russian thug as he punched British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell in the face. Moscow riot police did nothing to halt the attack on Tatchell and some 30 members of the European Parliament, watching impassively before stepping in to arrest Tatchell and several other victims.

About two months earlier, in late May, Moscow riot police allowed neo-Nazi skinheads and other nationalist thugs to attack a group of gay rights activists that included 30 members of the European Parliament, according to The Guardian, a British newspaper. Toward the end of the attack, which left activists injured by fists and rocks, the police moved in and arrested several of the Euro-deputies.

The police refused to arrest any of the skinhead attackers, who chanted "death to homosexuals" and beat their victims brutally as the officers stood by.

The activists were attempting to present a petition signed by 50 members of the European Parliament to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, asking him to lift a ban on a Gay Pride parade. The mayor has called such gay rallies "satanic."

"It was absolutely shocking," gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told The Guardian. "The police stood there while people knocked me to the ground and kicked me. Four or five neo-Nazis attacked me. The police watched. At a certain point, the police then arrested me and let my neo-Nazi attackers walk free."