Russian Nationalism and Xenophobia in January 2024

The following is our monthly review of instances of xenophobia and radical nationalism, along with any government countermeasures, for January 2024.

In January 2024, we recorded 21 hate-motivated attacks, largely by regularly monitoring several ultra-right Telegram channels. These channels posted video clips featuring brutal attacks on migrants, intoxicated people and unhoused people. One of these attacks – the January 12 beating of Rybinsk Communist Party member Ruslan Radul and two associates by a group of neo-Nazis – made its way to more mainstream media, after the Yaroslavl Region prosecutor announced criminal charges under Article 213 Part 2 (hooliganism, committed by a group of individuals by prior agreement), and the arrest of the suspects, on January 17.

Radical right-wing public activity was subdued during January, limited mostly to posting anti-migrant stickers.

On January 5, about 200 people gathered outside the Moscow City Court, which should have delivered its verdict in the case of Igor Strelkov. Activists from Eduard Limonov’s Other Russia were detained at the courthouse. Strelkov was sentenced to four years in a penal colony under Article 280 Part 2 of the Criminal Code (CC) (public calls to extremist activity) – in our view, without proper legal basis.

We did not record any January 2024 hate crime convictions.

In Orenburg, two teenagers from the ultra-right Funny Boots Squad were sentenced to imprisonment for beating people of “non-Slavic appearance” while shouting racist slogans; however it is unclear whether the hate motive was taken into consideration by the court.

On January 11, the Second Military Court of the Western Okrug commenced consideration on the merits of a case against a group of neo-Nazis who are accused of having revived the activities of the banned group NS/WP. More specifically, they are accused of participation in a terrorist organization, preparation of an assassination attempt on propagandist Vladimir Solovyev, and other crimes. Renowned Russian neo-Nazi Roman (“Zukhel”) Zheleznov, who fled to Ukraine and joined the hard-right Azov Battalion for some time, is accused of running the group’s Telegram channel. In January, Zheleznov was arrested on charges of inciting hatred, calls for terrorism and extremism, and participation in a terrorist organization.

We are aware of 10 convictions issued against 12 people in Russian courts in January on the basis of aggressive public statements. Among them:

- Two people were issued suspended sentences under Article 280 CC (public calls to extremist activity) for social media comments, in one of the cases, including calls for discrimination on ethnic bases; the underlying utterances in the second case are unknown.

- One person – Fail Alsynov (Alchinov), the former head of banned organization Bashkort – was sentenced to four years under Article 282 CC (incitement to national hatred). Alsynov’s prosecution followed his April 30, 2023, post to a local VKontake group featuring a speech in the Bashkir language. The speech, delivered at a gathering of people opposed to plans to open a gold mine near a populated area, contained insults directed towards “residents of the Caucasus or Central Asia” and Armenians.

- Three people were sentenced to imprisonment under Article 205.2 CC (propaganda of terrorism): two were convicted on the basis of stickers with recruitment information to the ultra-right Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK), a battalion of Russian nationals fighting against Russia in Ukraine; the other was convicted on the basis of comments expressing approval of the bombing of the Crimean Bridge.

- One person was fined under a combination of Articles 280 and 205.2 CC for VKontake comments calling for acts of violence against representatives of the state.

- One person was sentenced to imprisonment under a combination of Articles 282 and Article 148 Part 1 CC (insulting religions sensibilities) for comments in a Telegram channel of the now-closed portal; the first article was applied for pro-Ukrainian and anti-government statements including, according to the prosecution, calls to assassinate the president of Russia; we are not aware of the basis of the second part of the charge.

- One person was sentenced to an extended term of imprisonment upon conviction on a combination of CC Articles 280, 205.2, 354.1 (rehabilitation of Nazism) and 205.1 (Part 1.1) (promotion of terrorist activities), over participation in the Islamist militant organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sham deemed terrorist in Russia and online promotion of the group’s activities.

We know about three people fined in January under Article 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (CAO) (production and distribution of extremist materials), including for sharing a track entitled “Nasheed – the hymn of ISIL.”

We also recorded eight instances of fines issued under Article 20.3 CAO (propaganda and public demonstration of Nazi symbols). Seven people were sanctioned due to social-media publication of Nazi symbols and symbols of other organizations banned in Russia, including the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. One person was fined for drawing a swastika inside an elevator.

Our data also include 12 people fined in January on the basis of xenophobic statements under Article 20.3.1 CAO (incitement to hatred) following social media posts (VKontakte in all cases) directed against natives of the Caucasus and Central Asia, Jews, non-Russians in general, and ethnic Russian girls.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated once, on January 15, to account for new entry 5417: a song by the Ukrainian ultra-right group Krepatura.

On January 18, the Ministry of Justice began publishing a list of organizations mentioned under Parts 3 and 4 of Article 6 of the Federal Law “On the Perpetuation of the Victory of the Soviet People in the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945.” The list is to include Nazi collaborator organizations and their allies during the Second World War, as well as the attributes and symbols of these organizations. So far, the list includes the symbols and slogans of four Ukrainian organizations, expanding the formal grounds for application of Article 20.3 CAO. At this point, prosecution is possible for display of the Ukrainian trident and for the slogan “Glory to Ukraine – Glory to the Heroes.”

January 19 marked the fifteen-year anniversary of the murders of antifascist lawyer Stanislav Markelov and Novaya Gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova at the hands of neo-Nazis in Central Moscow. Commemorative events were held in several Russian cities.

In Moscow, several dozen people gathered at the site of the murder on Prechistenka Street, where mourners laid flowers by portraits of antifascists slain by neo-Nazis and lit candles. Additionally, a film about Anastasia Baburova was screened in the club Tolko Sami. In St. Petersburg, on the Field of Mars, about 20 people with a banner reading 19.01.09 laid flowers at the eternal flame; flowers and photos of a number of slain activists were also laid near the Bukvoed store on Vosstaniya Square, where antifascist Timur Kacharava was murdered in 2005.

Analogous actions were held in Novgorod, Volgograd, Voronezh, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Omsk, Rostov-on-Don, Tyumen, Berlin, Paris and Riga. In Volgograd, ultra-right activists destroyed a spontaneous memorial on the Volga embankment.