A black actor who appeared in popular Soviet films has died in the northern Russian city of Saint Petersburg after being brutally beaten in a suspected racist attack, officials said Monday.
"Tito Romalio, 59, died on May 11 in Alexandrovskaya hospital after being beaten by a 43-year-old Russian in a street in the north of the city following a conflict. The suspect was arrested," a local police spokesman said.
The spokesman did not give other details, but Russian media outlets, citing anonymous police sources, reported that the attacker, identified as Khamzya Yenikeyev, beat the actor out of racist hatred.
Romalio, who was of Brazilian descent, started his acting career as a child and had minor roles in such popular Soviet films as "Artyom's Adventures" from 1956 and "The Amphibian Man" from 1962.
The actor often encountered difficulties with racism, the Novaya Ivestia newspaper reported, citing his friends.
"Tito had a bitter fate," his friend Yelena Yakhontova told the daily. "In Russia he always lived with the brand of a 'darkie' and humiliated himself to find work. He had to get by somehow by working as a character actor."
Africans and other non-whites living in Russia are frequently attacked by neo-Nazi gangs, though the authorities have claimed some success in reducing violent hate crimes recently.
A total of 74 people were killed in racist attacks in Russia last year, a drop from the 120 killed in 2008, according to the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, a group that tracks hate crimes.