MOSCOW — The U.S. Embassy again warned Americans of African and Asian descent to beware of violent neo-Nazi thugs after an African American Marine was beaten by a group of skinheads this weekend at a popular outdoor market.
Moscow city police on Sunday arrested one of the assailants, who by chance was interviewed by a Russian television crew moments after the incident and bragged that he often beats black people on the city's streets.
"To be honest with you, they just seem to be attracted to my fists like metal to a magnet," said the man, who gave his name as "Boose" and displayed his bloody knuckles for the camera. "Everywhere I go, they bite me on my fists."
Embassy officials declined Sunday to discuss details of the assault, citing the victim's request for privacy. But police said he is a U.S. Marine who was knocked unconscious by the first blow and lost his two front teeth in the beating.
"A group of so-called skinheads attacked and beat a member of the official American community of Afro-American origin," said a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy. "The American Embassy in Moscow again warns its citizens to exercise caution in areas where groups of 'skinheads' are known to loiter."
The embassy first warned the expatriate American community about the neo-Nazi danger April 22, after two young Asian women were severely beaten by a group of more than 20 skinheads near a major boulevard in central Moscow.
That assault followed a threat by neo-Nazis to attack foreigners of color at random to mark the April 20 birthday of Adolf Hitler. Since the attack, at least three other serious assaults have been reported, on people from Kenya, Nigeria and India.
The beating of the U.S. Marine took place Saturday afternoon at a crowded market known as Gorbushka in Moscow's Fili Park, where pirated compact discs and cassettes are sold in enormous quantities.
The Marine, accompanied by an interpreter, had purchased several CDs and was walking around the market when four skinheads began beating him without warning, police said. The attackers apparently did not know he was American.
As they repeatedly hit and kicked him, the attackers yelled racial slurs and various obscene phrases.
"The only reason he was assaulted is because he is black," said Alexei G. Ogorelyshev, deputy head of criminal investigations for the Fili Park police precinct. "But this time, the skinheads were unlucky. They picked on the wrong person, who turned out to be a U.S. citizen and a U.S. Embassy employee. It is a rather explosive combination. This means they have gotten themselves in a lot of trouble."
The crew from Moscow's TV-6 station, which was covering a religious event nearby, arrived moments after the beating and interviewed people in the crowd, including Boose, who police say was the main assailant, and an associate who called himself "Renat," who explained the attackers' motivation.
"A black always means evil," Renat said. "That is why everyone of sound mind should kill blacks. It is the only way one can counter evil." He said the reason black people come to Russia is to sell drugs, echoing a widespread belief among Russians.
"Black culture penetrates and contaminates the Russian culture," he continued. "What we did today was we annihilated--we did away with--the source of another black epidemic."
A copy of the TV videotape was obtained by the police as evidence. Police are not seeking to arrest Renat because they have no evidence he struck the Marine. But Ogorelyshev said investigators expected to arrest another suspect who had been identified.
Although the Soviet Union fought against Nazi Germany during World War II, neo-Nazi groups that appeal to Russian nationalism have been on the rise since the Communist state collapsed in 1991.
Moscow has less random street crime than many Western cities, but racism is deeply rooted in Russia. Immigrants from former Soviet republics in Asia and students from Asia and Africa routinely face bigotry. Other foreign embassies also have warned their citizens living in Moscow to beware of groups of skinheads.
Nevertheless, Ogorelyshev downplayed the extent of racism in Russia, maintaining that the attack at Fili Park was not typical of either Moscow or the country.
"I do feel sorry for the guy," the police official said. "Coming to a foreign country only to lose your front teeth and get your face smashed by a bunch of skinheads is something one can only see in his worst nightmare. No doubt the Marine will remember this warm welcome from the Russian people for the rest of his days."
Alexei Kuznetsov of The Times' Moscow Bureau contributed to this report.