Race murder case judge shot dead

A Moscow judge who jailed murdering neo-Nazis has been shot dead amid a surge of violence against activists and officials opposed to Russian nationalists.

Eduard Chuvashov was killed contract-style in the stairwell of his apartment building in central Moscow.

The murderer used a silencer and left no shells, but investigators obtained footage from surveillance cameras showing a tall Slavic man, about 30-years-old, coming out of Judge Chuvashov's building shortly after the killing.

A leading rights group accused a far-right ultra-nationalist group with alleged ties to Kremlin-backed youth movements, saying it may have links to the murder and incited hatred for the judge on the internet.

Russia has experienced a surge of xenophobia and racially-motivated assaults in the years after the Soviet collapse, and the number of neo-Nazi groups has mushroomed.

As the nation struggles through an economic meltdown, nationalist groups have targeted dark-skinned migrants from ex-Soviet Central Asian nations and Russia's own North Caucasus region, accusing them of stealing jobs from ethnic Russians.

Judge Chuvashov, 47, presided over several high-profile cases that involved hate killings committed by neo-Nazis and skinheads.

In February, he conducted the trial of the White Wolves, a gang of mostly teenage skinheads who kicked and stabbed their victims to death, often videotaping the attacks and posting them online. They were convicted by a jury of the killings of six Central Asian people and Judge Chuvashov sentenced them to up to 23 years in jail.

He began receiving threats during the trial, a Moscow-based hate crime monitoring group, Sova, said.