Russian Nationalism and Xenophobia in March 2023

In March 2023, we learned of only one possible hate-motivated attack, which took place in Makhachkala. A total of three people have been injured in such incidents since the beginning of the year.

A March 2 shooting raid by the “Russian Volunteer Corps” (RDK) in villages of the Bryansk region drew significant attention. The RDK was created in Ukraine in August 2022 by far-right Russian activists led by Denis Kapustin (Nikitin). Shortly after the events in the Bryansk region, the FSB reported that it had prevented an attempt on the life of Konstantin Malofeev, the head of the Tsargrad Society, and accused Denis Nikitin and other members of RDK of being involved in planning the attempt. Kapustin, Kirill Kanakhin, and Alexei Ogurtsov have consequently been declared wanted in Russia.

In March, we recorded only one act of xenophobically-motivated vandalism, in Perm, where two teenagers in balaclavas hacked an icon with an axe and a sword and burned it, shouting "Sieg Heil" and "Hail Hitler," and throwing Nazi salutes. The suspects were arrested.

This action caused outrage among the far-right. The Perm branch of the Northern Man movement (created in the summer of 2022 by hip-hop artist Misha Mavashi) published several videos on the night of March 14, in which aggressive young people demonstrated the place that the teens had burned the icon, interrogated a 16-year-old college student, beat him with a belt, examined his correspondence with another participant in the burning, and then talked to his guardian at his home. The teenager gave his personal information and place of study on camera and apologized "to all Russian Orthodox people."

Nationalists also spoke out about the alleged construction of an Islamic complex in Moscow’s Kosino-Ukhtomsky district. The media reported plans to build an Islamic center, including a mosque for 60,000 people, but the Department of Construction has not confirmed this information. Damir Mukhetdinov, the Deputy Chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia, also stated that the muftiates had no plans to build anything in this area and did not have the resources for such large-scale construction. Nevertheless, opponents of the alleged mosque's construction began collecting signatures. Almost all far-right resources expressed great outrage about the construction, with the most active in discussing the issue being the Tsargrad Society and the Russian Community ZOV. On March 15, a pig's head was buried at the site of the proposed construction, with a video of the act posted online. The Moscow resident who posted the video was detained shortly thereafter.

We have information about three individuals convicted in March for hate-motivated attacks (here and below, we present data without taking into account court decisions that we consider to be patently improper). In Kazan, one Vladislav Konyashev was sentenced to four years and ten months in prison for brutally beating a citizen of Azerbaijan. (Konyashev was a member of an ultra-right group whose supporters were convicted in 2019 for the murder of a student from the Republic of Chad.) In St. Petersburg, one Nikita Dyakov was sentenced to a year and a half in a minimum-security penal colony for attacking natives of Yakutia in the San-Galli garden. However, he was not sent to the colony: Dyakov was released right in the courtroom because his time in pretrial custody was equivalent to the term of his sentence.

In total, since the beginning of the year, we have learned of seven sentences, against 18 people, for xenophobic violence, and eight sentences, against 10 people, for xenophobic vandalism.

We have also recorded information in respect of four individuals convicted in March for their involvement in extremist communities and organizations. In total, we know of 11 such sentences, against 17 people, since the beginning of the year.

We have information about 21 sentences handed down in March against 22 people for aggressive public statements.

Among them:

●      Two were convicted under Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code (CC) (public calls for terrorist activity) for social media posts calling for attacks on government officials, including the president of the Russian Federation;

●      Seven people were charged under Article 280 CC (public calls to extremist activity) over social media and Telegram posts calling for attacks on law enforcement officers and, in one case, on Armenians;

●      Three faced combined charges under both articles for calls to attack government officials, specifically law enforcement officers;

●      One person – a Chelyabinsk member of one of the Citizens of the USSR groups – was charged under Article 282 CC (incitement to national hatred) for sharing xenophobic social media posts;

●      One person was charged under Article 354.1 CC (rehabilitation of Nazism) for posting a photo of Adolf Hitler to social media;

●      Two people were charged under Articles 214 and 280 CC for anti-war inscriptions calling for the overthrow of the current Russian government in the hall of a residential building;

●      One person was charged under Articles 205 (terrorist acts) and 280 CC for attempting to set fire to a military enlistment office and posting on social media "calls for terrorist acts against commissariats, [and] sabotage of railway tracks";

●      One person was charged under Article 205.2 with Articles 205 and 214 CC, also for setting fire to a military enlistment office and posting a video of the arson and a corresponding manifesto to a Telegram channel;

●      One person was charged under the new Article 280.4 CC (calls for activity against state security) for social media posts calling for attacks on military enlistment offices; and

●      Two more people were convicted under another new article: Article 282.4 CC (repeated demonstration of Nazi symbols). One of them, a colony inmate, repeatedly showed his own tattoos to other convicts. The second demonstrated to traffic police officers a qualification breast badge of the Luftwaffe, the emblem of the Third Tank Division of the SS Death’s Head, and an image of the flag of Nazi Germany on his phone; he had previously been punished for demonstrating Nazi symbols under the corresponding administrative article (20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, CAO).

Since the beginning of the year, we have recorded 48 sentences for similar offenses, concerning 53 people.

Meanwhile, we know of five people who were fined under article 20.29 CAO (production and dissemination of extremist materials) for reposting materials listed in the Federal List of Extremist Materials to social media, including for example a video clip with a song by the band Kolovrat or the book Christian Deception of Slavs. In total, since the beginning of the year, we are aware that about 21 people were fined for similar actions.

At least 15 people have been sanctioned under article 20.3 CAO (propaganda and public demonstration of Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations). Most of them were punished for posts on VKontakte and WhatsApp of Nazi symbols and symbols of banned Islamist organizations. Another three were sanctioned for displaying their own swastika tattoos. One person was punished for wearing a helmet featuring a Nazi symbol (the helmet was confiscated). Another person came to a football match with a drum decorated with swastika stickers. Two people were sentenced to administrative detention, and the rest were fined. In total, since the beginning of the year, we have learned of 53 people sanctioned under article 20.3.

At least eight people were sanctioned under Article 20.3.1 CAO (incitement to hatred) for posts featuring various ethno-xenophobic materials to social networks. One person was sentenced to mandatory labor, while the others were fined amounts ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 rubles (ca. USD$120 to USD$185 at the time of publication). A total of 26 such decisions have been made known to us since the beginning of this year.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated only once in March, on the 20th, with the addition of item 5340 – the book White Love by Nikolai Korolev, a cult figure among Russian neo-Nazi skinheads who is serving a life sentence for the 2006 bombing of the Cherkizovsky Market in Moscow.

The Federal List of Extremist Organizations was not updated in March. However, the list of organizations recognized by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation as terrorist was expanded to include the Maniacs Cult of Murder (MKU, which is also known by other names including "Maniacs Cult of Killers" and "Youth That Smiles"), which espouses a misanthropic ideology. The Russian Supreme Court recognized this group as terrorist on January 16, 2023.