The number of Russian young people who affiliate themselves with the skinhead movement is more than 15,000 people, Valery Komarov, who heads the Chief Department for Combating Organized Crime at the Russian interior ministry, announced on Tuesday.
As of today, said Komarov, extremist groups are a serious destabilizing factor for the country's social and political development. At the same time, however, the skinheads have no organisation of their own, nor do they have centralized management, statute or hierarchy. The movement is made up of isolated groups that vary in numbers.
According to the interior ministry's information, there are 2,500 active skinheads and about 100 leaders of various levels in the Moscow region. In St. Petersburg, 17 neofascist organisations are included on the police's preventive work orders.
There are forces in Russia that "try to make a political capital" by luring youth into informal extremist groups, said Komarov. According to his account, the process is supported by mass media. Propaganda is aimed, first and foremost, at teenagers aged between 13 and 17.
That is exactly why the interior ministry concentrates its efforts "not on putting as many extremists as possible on trial" but on preventive work. Last November, for instance, the law enforcing authorities suppressed an attempt on the part of neofascists to hold a convention on the occasion of the birthday of Ian Stuart, the founder of the skinhead movement. The convention was to have been attended by almost 400 people.
In all in 2002, law enforcers opened 71 criminal cases related to the skinheads. Thirty-one of them were forwarded to the court. 16 people were found guilty of various offences.