Racism and Xenophobia in April 2019
SOVA Center is aware that in April 2019, one person was killed and another three were injured in hate-motivated attacks in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Kursk and Cherepovets. Since the beginning of the year, in all two people have been killed and no fewer than 11 injured in eight regions of Russia, as a result of violence motivated by ethnic or ideological hatred.
On the night of April 19, on the eve of Passover, the Torat Haim yeshiva, in the Ramensky district of the Moscow Region, was set on fire and defaced with a swastika. We are also aware of swastikas being spray-painted onto the Troitskaya Church in the Vladimir Region. In all, we have recorded four instances of ideologically-motivated vandalism since the beginning of 2019.
In April, ultra-right-wing threats against antifascists intensified. Nationalists posted online information about an antifascist activist, including places where he can be found and links to his pages on social media.
The pro-Kremlin group SERB did not shirk from participation in threats and provocations, publishing in its social media group the news that director Pavel Lungin made the film Brotherhood, which it asserted “desecrates the memory of our heroic warriors who laid down their heads in Afghanistan.” SERB called on supporters to “Firmly resist this madness throughout Russia,” recalling the disruption of the screening of the film Holiday at Memorial International Society in Moscow. Additionally, on April 8, 9 and 10 SERB activists in Moscow provoked participants of the initiative group Against Torture and Discrimination led by Lev Ponomarev, preventing them from holding a series of one-man pickets in support of defendants in the “Set” (“Network”) case at the FSB headquarters in Central Moscow and on Manezhnaya Square.
In terms of public nationalist activity, it stands to mention an April 11 protest action led by the Nation and Freedom Committee (KNS) in front of the State Duma, in Central Moscow. The protest was held simultaneously with the second reading in the Duma of a bill on the isolation of the Russian Internet. On April 20, a similar action, in the form of one-man pickets protesting the bill, was held near the Moscow Technical University of Communications and Informatics (MTUCI).
On April 13, on Suvorov Square in Moscow, nationalists took part in an action on problems related to urban development, housing, communal services, illegal infill construction and rights of the local self-government bodies. About 1,000 people participated in total.
In Arkhangelsk on April 7, nationalists participated in a protest against the construction of a landfill in Shiyes.
This month, we are aware of only a single conviction for racist violence. In Omsk, a regional court ruled against four participants in an ultra-right-wing group: 23-year-old MMA fighter Nikita Fedonenko, third-year university student Alexander Bezborodov, Regina Mikulicheva and Alexander Lanbin. The group’s members killed one person and attacked others of “non-Slavic appearance,” beating them and demanding they leave Russia. In 2019 to date, four rulings have been handed down against seven individuals on the basis of violent crimes where the court recognized the hate motive.
There were seven convictions of seven people in five regions of Russia on the basis of xenophobic statements in April 2019. Two rulings were based on Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code (justification of terrorism) while five were under Article 280 of the Criminal Code (public calls to extremist activity). The decisions under Article 205.2 were tied in one instance to calls to toss grenades through the windows of state bodies, while the others were on the basis of calls to join the so-called Islamic State. The rulings under Article 280 were delivered in response to calls to violence against Jews and migrants from Central Asia. So far in 2019, we have recorded no fewer than 38 convictions of 42 individuals, in 22 regions of Russia, for racist and other unconstitutional statements.
April saw the cancellation of no fewer than three criminal sentences issued under Article 282 of the Criminal Code (incitement to hatred) in connection with the partial decriminalization of that article. This included the annulment of a conviction of Vladimir Ratnikov, the former leader of the ultra-right-wing movement “Black Bloc,” who was charged in March 2018 for publication of neo-Nazi songs on social media and sentenced to 160 hours of community service. In connection with the decriminalization of Article 282, at least three more cases have been closed at the investigative stage.
The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated three times this month, on April 2, 15 and 22. It was amended to include entries 4869-4885. These entries include new ultra-right-wing video clips featuring xenophobic statements and calls to attack Central Asians, Caucasians and Jews; a speech by Goebbels; an article by Boris Stomakhin, editor of the “Radical Politics” bulletin; a videoclip of a wall being painted with the help of an Orthodox icon; a book by the catacomb priest Roman Bychkov; esoteric books by Leonid Maslov, and Islamist video clips, including those featuring calls to jihad.
In April the Federal List of Extremist Organizations was updated with entry No. 73, which lists a group of football ultras known as the Autograd Crew, Kamaz Ultras and Blue White Crew which had been deemed extremist in a ruling by the Naberezhnye Chelny City Court of the Republic of Tatarstan on February 6, 2019.
According to our research, no fewer than 15 individuals were fined under Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (propaganda and public display of Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations) in April 2019. One person was a prison colony inmate fined for a swastika tattoo, another was fined for a sticker featuring a Nazi symbol on his car, and the others for publication of images featuring such symbols on social media.
SOVA Center is also aware that 20 individuals were fined under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (production and dissemination of banned materials). This was, in part, for sharing fragments of the neo-Nazi “White ABC”; songs by groups that are popular in ultra-right-wing circles; an Islamist brochure entitled 380 Great Sins based on Ibn Hajar al-Haytami’s sixteenth-century treatise; a video clip of Indian fundamentalist Islamist preacher Zakir Naik entitled “Will I go to hell because I am a Catholic?” The bases of the other fines are not known to us.
No fewer than 10 individuals were fined under the new Art. 20.3.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (incitement of national hatred) identical to Part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code. Eight individuals were charged with sharing materials insulting to natives of the Caucasus, Central Asia and other “non-Slavs.” One person was fined for posting symbols of the banned Russia National Unity (RNE) movement and calls to racist street violence. Two individuals were punished for putting up flyers on walls.
Our information about criminal and administrative cases does not account for court decisions that we have found to be clearly arbitrary. Unfortunately, our quantitative data, especially in respect of the Code of Administrative Offenses, are substantially incomplete.