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Russian progressives under threat by ‘death list’

Moscow — A Russian neo-Nazi group has sent out a "death list" of prominent human rights workers and journalists it intends to kill this year, one of the activists targeted said Thursday.

Galina Kozhevnikova, director of the Moscow-based rights watchdog Sova Centre, said she had received an email Sunday containing a lengthy hit list of academics, activists and journalists.

"They said they were going to kill me, and my colleagues, for the work that we are doing," she said, adding that the message was signed by a neo-Nazi group that called itself BTO.

Russian ultra-nationalists, angered by rights workers’ defense of ethnic minorities, regularly threaten the activists on their websites.

"My name has been on such death lists before on the Internet,” Kozhevnikova said. “Last year they even published my address. But I’ve never received a letter like this before."

The incident comes after several high-profile killings of journalists and activists that have shaken the Russian human rights community and embarrassed the Kremlin.

Last month prominent Russian human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, 34, and 25-year-old reporter Anastasiya Baburova were gunned down in central Moscow in broad daylight after leaving a news conference.

Another Russian journalist, Mikhail Beketov, was left in a coma after being savagely beaten outside his home in a Moscow suburb in November.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists expressed its concern over the incident and called on Russian authorities for more protection.

"We are alarmed by this threat against those who cover growing neo-fascist crimes in Russia," the group’s Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator, Nina Ognianova, said in a statement. "The murder of Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasiya Baburova makes swift and decisive police action all the more urgent."