Thursday marked the first day in the trial of a Moscow gang of skinheads whose members are accused of targeting and killing 20 people with the gang’s “trademark” knifing in the back.
"Lone citizens of non-Slavic appearance were chosen as victims. The assailants attempted to inflict grievous harm within the shortest possible time," Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia's investigative committee told the Guardian in Britain.
The group's two leaders, Artur Ryno and Pavel Skachevsky, were both younger than 16 when they allegedly committed their crimes, the newspaper reported.
Nine skinheads in their teens and early 20s are charged with 20 premeditated murders, 12 attempted murders and inciting racial hatred in their attack of mostly darker-skinned migrant workers from Central Asia and the Caucuses, according to a report from news.com.au.
The group videotaped the killings and posted them for an Internet audience. Xenophobia and racism have escalated in post-Soviet Russia, which is plagued by neo-Nazi desecration and hate crimes against ethnic minorities.
According to rights group SOVA, racist killings in Russia have risen in 2008, where 18 people were killed by February — mostly people from Central Asia.
The gang will be tried behind closed doors, as many of its members are still minors, Reuters reported.