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Neo-Nazi violence in Saint-Petersburg: the NS/WP criminal case

Настоящий материал (информация) произведен и (или) распространен иностранным агентом РОО Центр «Сова» либо касается деятельности иностранного агента РОО Центр «Сова».

The trial against members of the Saint-Petersburg neo-Nazi group "NS/WP Nevograd" is coming to an end, as the sentences required for them by the prosecutor's office were made public on 17 April, marking the beginning of the pleadings. Nine men are awaiting their conviction, out of the eleven who were initially arrested in 2010.

The group was created in 2009 by Georgy Timofeev. "NS/WP" stands for "National-Socialist/White Power", and its ideology is aimed at the racial and social "purity" of Saint-Petersburg and its region. The group is often considered to be the follower of Borovikov and Voevodin’s gang whose activities were put to a stop in 2006.

Their methods consisted mainly in attacking and often murdering people on the street. The main group targeted by NS/WP was migrants, either from Central Asia and the Caucasus or from Africa. In December 2009, for example, two people from Ghana and Guinea Bissau were murdered; the number of attacks and murders committed against Central Asians and Caucasians in 2009 and 2010 is much higher. But the gang also targeted Russian citizens, either because they were of "non-Slavic" appearance – as the man from the Tuva Republic murdered in 2008 – or because they were leading what the group's members deemed as "anti-social" lives. In August 2009, NS/WP members noticed two homeless women in a car, and decided to put the car on fire. The two later died in hospital.

They have also committed several acts which were later qualified either as terrorist acts – among which the explosion of a home-made explosive device at a bus stop in November 2010, causing material damage and injuring a passer-by – or as hooliganism. In August 2009, two members of the gang set a church on fire on Prospect Stachek. In November of the same year, they placed a fake explosive device in a metro car, thus interrupting the circulation of trains for two hours. Next to the object was an inscription with a swastika and the word "Khasis". This happened soon after Evgenia Khasis was formally named one of the two suspects involved in the murder of the human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and the journalist Anastasia Baburova, which had occurred in January 2009. Khasis and her boyfriend Nikita Tikhonov were later sentenced for this murder, and were found to belong to a neo-Nazi nationalist group.

But at the end of December 2009, members of NS/WP posted a video online showing the murder of an African man. The video was titled "New Year – New Terror". In addition to this video, two members of the gang (Mumzhiev and Prisyazhniuk) recorded an appeal, where it was possible to see Prisyazhnyuk, with a mask on his face, standing against a background with a swastika. That strive for publicity is what led to the movement's decline. Indeed, these videos launched the start of an investigation and, between January and June 2010, eleven members of the group were arrested and prosecuted for at least ten murders and four attempted murders motivated by ethnic hatred, among other charges.

Of the eleven people arrested, two agreed to cooperate early on with the investigators, and their case was thus dealt with separately. Georgy Timofeev, one of the gang's leaders, declared he disavowed the ideas of his nationalist movement, signed a pre-trial agreement of cooperation, and testified against himself and his comrades. As a result, he was convicted on 6 July 2012 and got a relatively mild sentence – 13 years of imprisonment for seven murders, four attempted murders, and acts of terrorism. His comrade Dmitry Negudov, after following his example, was sentenced to four and a half years a bit earlier that year (23 April).

Since then, nine young men have remained in trial. At the time of the suspected crimes, they were all between 17 and 24 years old. The investigation on this main case started on 30 November 2012. Valentin Mumzhiev (known as "Taiga"), his brother Vladimir Mumzhiev ("Vova Zatochka"), Artyom Zavyalov, Yevgeny Koryabkin, German Vengerveld ("German"), Dmitry Abalishin, Roman Veitz, Kirill Prisyazhnyuk ("Vegan") and Arseny Miroshnichenko are brought to court under several articles of the Russian Federation's Criminal Code :

-       Part 2 of Article 105 (murder and attemped murder motivated by ethnic hatred);

-       Part 2 of Article 282 (incitement to ethnic hatred or hostility);

-       Part 3 of Article 30 (preparation of crimes and attempted crimes);

-       Part 2 of Article 205 (terrorist acts);

-       Parts 1 and 3 of Article 223 (illegal fabrication of explosives);

-       And Part 3 of Article 222 (illegal possession of weapons).

 On 17 April 2014, the prosecutor finally communicated about the sentences required for the men. Three professional judges are in charge of the case.

German Vengerveld might have to face a life sentence, if the judges make their decision according to the prosecutor's demand. The 25-year-old is accused of murder, hooliganism and illegal possession of weapons. His mother is also prosecuted, as she is accused of having tried to arrange an escape for her son as he was being interrogated at one of the prosecutor's office buildings in July 2012 – she gave him a gas canister which he used by squirting its content into the investigator's face, before trying – in vain – to jump out the window.

The sanctions required for the rest of the accused differ in length. Vladimir Mumzhiev is threatened with 18 years of penal colony under strict regime; his younger brother Valentin may face 20 years, or even a life sentence according to some sources. Concerning 22-year-old Artiom Zavyalov, the prosecutor required a 22-year sentence – under strict regime as well. He is accused of having committed the explosion at a bus stop, and of having taken part in the raids against non-Slavic-looking foreigners since he was a teenager.

As for Kirill Prisyazhnyuk, Yevgeny Koryabkin, Dmitry Abalishin and Arseny Miroshnichenko, they risk sentences from 6 to 12 years. The fact that Prisyazhnyk converted to Islam two years ago and asserted that he had become a "deeply religious man" seems not to have convinced the prosecutor to soften his sentence. Roman Veitz, on the opposite, finds himself in a relatively better situation due to his cooperation with the investigators: he is under house arrest and, according to the prosecutor, may be condemned to a three-year suspended sentence.

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