Russian Nationalism and Xenophobia in September 2023

The following is our monthly review of instances of xenophobia and radical nationalism, along with any government countermeasures, for September 2023.

This September, we recorded no fewer than eight hate-motivated attacks, and one serious murder threat. We learned of several of these upon their publication on ultra-right Telegram channels: ultra-right activists attacking Black people, migrants, street vendors, communists and anarchists with pepper spray. A group calling itself the Russian Russia claimed responsibility for the attacks.

We also recorded several public threats directed at women in Islamic head coverings. On September 1, a Moscow Metro passenger was outraged upon seeing a girl in a niqab. As the story went public, the addresses of the girl and her parents were published online by neo-Nazi groups. The victim’s lawyer reported threats against herself and her client.

Since the beginning of the year, according to our data, no fewer than 76 people have suffered from hate-motivated attacks; one person has been murdered; and three have received serious death threats.

Among the public actions, we would note the march in Tyumen of a group of nationalists chanting anti-migrant slogans. Judging by a video that appeared on a far-right Telegram channel, the procession took place near the office of the Union of Armenians of the Tyumen Region.

This month in total, we recorded one act of xenophobic vandalism, in the Kemerovo Region. Since the beginning of this year, we are aware of 13 such acts.

We are also aware of at least two convictions on the basis of xenophobic violence delivered during September. In particular, in Tula, Denis (Filkin) Makarov and Vladimir Ovsyannikov were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for the racist murder of a native of Uzbekistan, committed in 2007.

It is also worth noting the arrest of a group of ultra-rightists on September 14 in St. Petersburg in connection with a kidnapping case from January of this year. The most famous among those detained was the neo-Nazi Kirill Rimkus, who fought in the Donbas in 2014 as part of the Rusich group; he had publicly mused more recently about joining Wagner PMC fighters, but changed his mind.

Since the beginning of the year, we have recorded 17 sentences against some 35 people for xenophobic violence, and five sentences against seven people for xenophobic vandalism (hereinafter, we provide data without taking into account court decisions that we consider to be patently improper).

In total, we have information about three people convicted in September for participation in extremist communities and organizations. One is a supporter of the banned Islamic State, one an alleged member of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi Right Sector, and there is no information about the third. In total, since the beginning of the year, we have become aware of 59 such sentences against 98 people.

We learned of 14 sentences for aggressive public statements, convicting the same number of people, in September.

Among them were four people convicted under Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code (СС) (propaganda of terrorism) for calls on social media for violent action and threats against government officials and security forces, as well as calls for jihad. One person was sanctioned under Article 280 СС (public calls for extremist activity) for calls for violence against law enforcement officers. A court sentenced another person under a combination of these articles for unnamed publications on VKontakte. Meanwhile one person was convicted under CC Articles 354.1 (rehabilitation of Nazism) and 222 (illegal possession of weapons) for publishing messages on a social network regarding the Second World War. Two people were convicted under CC Article 282.4 (repeated propaganda or public display of Nazi paraphernalia or symbols, or paraphernalia or symbols of extremist organizations). One of the sentences was issued based on graffiti with Nazi symbols on buildings, while the second dealt with publishing Nazi symbols on social networks. Both defendants were previously sanctioned for similar actions under Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (CAO).

In total, since the beginning of this year, we have recorded 161 sentences for public statements, issued against 184 people (not counting, as noted above, those we consider to be patently improper).

In September, we learned about four people who were fined under Article 20.29 CAO (production and distribution of extremist materials) for social media re-posts of xenophobic materials included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials, including the text «Catechism of a Jew in the USSR 1946,» a video clip entitled «Everyone should know. Watch to the end,» and the song of the bard of the Chechen armed resistance Timur Mutsuraev «As Long as Wives Rule the World.» In total, since the beginning of the year, we have learned of 83 people punished under this CAO article.

Meanwhile, at least 28 people were convicted under Article 20.3 CAO (propaganda and public display of Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations). Five people, four of them colony inmates, showed others their swastika tattoos. One shouted neo-Nazi chants on a city’s embankment. One offender drew swastikas on cemetery tombstones. The rest published Nazi symbols and symbols of banned organizations, such as the Ukrainian Right Sector, on social networks, the vast majority on VKontakte. Six people were placed under administrative arrest, one was sentenced to compulsory labor, and the rest were fined. In total, since the beginning of the year, we have recorded 538 cases of sentencing for such offenses.

At least 16 people were punished in September for radical statements under Article 20.3.1 CAO (incitement to hatred). All of them posted on social networks (mainly on VKontakte, but also on Odnoklassniki) materials directed against natives of Central Asia and the Caucasus, migrants in general, Black people, ethnic Russians, non-Russians, Jews, Christians and representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. One person was sentenced to community service, and the rest were fined. In total, since the beginning of the year, we know of 238 such court decisions.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated twice this month: on September 14 and 26, to account for new entries 5373–5375. The list in September was supplemented by the video «Scenario: The Collapse of Russia//The Exit of Kalmykia and Buryatia,» the book Siege by the American neo-Nazi James Mason, and the Yuri Nesterenko’s poem To the Russian Occupiers.