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Seven skinheads await sentences for 20 killings

  • Story Highlights
  • Russian skinhead gang convicted over 20 racially motivated killings
  • Jury says the gang's two leaders do not deserve any leniency
  • Russia media: race-hate crimes have increased since collapse of Soviet Union
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MOSCOW (CNN) -- Seven members of a skinhead gang convicted over 20 racially motivated killings and 12 other violent attacks, will hear their sentences in a Moscow court Thursday, according to Russian media.

After prosecutors recommend sentences, the Moscow City Court judge will set a sentencing date for the crimes, which were committed between August 2006 and October 2007.

The jury acquitted two other suspects, citing a lack of evidence, Anna Usachyova, a court spokeswoman, told news agencies RIA Novosti and Interfax.

Jurors said Artur Ryno and Pavel Skachevsky, the 17-year-olds who organized and led the group, did not deserve leniency, according to Usachyova. They face between eight and 20 years in prison.

Jurors felt the other five convicted attackers -- aged 15 to 22 -- should receive a lesser punishment, she said.

Defense attorneys asked the jury to find the defendants not guilty.

The gang members were indicted for "killing two or more people by an organized group, motivated by feelings of ethnic and racial hatred; attempted killings; the instigation of hatred or hostility; and disorderly conduct," according to Interfax.

Several people from the gang were also charged with robberies, it said.

According to Russian media, there has been an increase in race-hate crimes since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Thirteen members of another youth group, including 12 minors, were sentenced recently to three to 10 years in prison for two murders and fueling ethnic hatred. One of their victims was Sergey Nikolaev, 46, a Russian international chess master and coach.

"Both groups followed a common pattern in committing the crimes," prosecutors told Interfax.

"Influenced by ideas on exclusivity of people of Russian ethnicity and inferiority of non-Slavic individuals ... the defendants formed organized groups to kill people coming from former Soviet republics located in the Asian and Caucasus regions," a prosecution spokesman was quoted as saying.

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