Government Minister Says Youth Gang Members in Russia Number Over 200,000

(December 31, 2008)

Rashid Nurgaliev, head of the MVD and as such Russia's top police official, revealed that over 200,000 young people have been revealed by police investigations to be members of "extremist and criminal" gangs since 2005, according to a December 24, 2008 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. This year alone, police counted 53,900 youths involved in "groups of a criminal, anti-social, extremist, or other character."

Per the usual practice of Russian law enforcement officials, there appears to be no disaggregation of these numbers. Instead, it's anyone's guess how many "extremists" there are within the statistics compared to "criminal and anti-social" youths, or even what an "extremist" is--a neo-Nazi, an Islamic radical, a Chechen insurgent, or a member of a non-violent political opposition group? The category of "other" makes these numbers even less useful. Nevertheless, it is clear that youth crime, including youth hate crimes, are becoming so common that they have attracted the attention of top Russian officials. Whether or not they will continue to obfuscate the true scale of the problem through such seemingly deliberate sloppiness with the numbers will be a telling sign of how serious the Kremlin really is in combating increasingly violent hate groups.

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