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Ultranationalist race-hate leader gets suspended sentence

Published time: May 28, 2009 20:12
Edited time: May 28, 2009 20:12

A Moscow court has sentenced nationalist leader Aleksandr “Belov” Potkin to one and a half year’s imprisonment, suspended over two years. He has been found guilty of inciting ethnic hatred and violence.

Belov said he would challenge the sentence within ten days. “I will soon study the court protocol and challenge the verdict,” he said.

The former leader of the nationalist Movement Against Illegal Immigration (known by the acronym DPNI in Russian) Aleksandr Potkin, better known by his alias Aleksandr Belov, is the face of Russia's ultra right.

The charges of incitement of ethnic or racial hatred against him were based on statements Belov made in November 2007 at a march to celebrate Russia's Day of National Unity.

It led to his resignation as leader of the DPNI. The 33-year-old says he's innocent, but migrants’ rights activists disagree.

“They committed a crime. The main thing to mention is of course the Kondopoga riots. We were the first to announce that it was Aleksandr Belov-Potkin who gathered his followers from all over Russia inciting them to come to Kondopoga and attack the immigrants,” said activist Kanildzan Kalandarov.

Founded in 2002, the DPNI quickly became the leading nationalist movement. It survived while other ultranationalist parties had been banned or dissolved.

Belov himself is famous for his actions at the Kondopoga race riots in September 2006. The unrest started after a brawl in a restaurant between Chechens and Slavic nationals that left three Russians dead.

The week-long interethnic conflict in the small northern city left a deep and lasting scar across the country. Aleksandr Belov was accused of being a key participant in the turmoil.

The issue of racial hatred remains a major problem on the streets of Russia.

Umed, a migrant from Tajikistan, was attacked when he was walking with his wife and son.

“Unfortunately cases like mine do happen in Russia. People get attacked, injured and even murdered sometimes. I think more should be done to protect innocent people,” he said.