Ukraine Upsets the Nationalist Apple-Cart: Xenophobia, Radical Nationalism and Efforts to Counteract It in Russia during the First Half of 2014
PUBLIC ACTIVITY OF ULTRA-RIGHT GROUPS : Position on the “Ukrainian Question” : “Spin” on Criminal Incidents : Ultra-Right Public Events : Ultra-Right Raiding Activity
COUNTER-ACTION TO RADICAL NATIONALISM : Public Initiatives : Criminal Prosecution : For Violence : For Propaganda : Criminal Prosecution of Extremist Groups and Banned Organizations : The Federal List of Extremist Materials : Other Administrative Measures
Activity of nationalist groups and organizations in Russia in the first half of 2014 was largely determined by foreign policy events - specifically, by Russia's involvement in the events unfolding in Ukraine.
Russian nationalists were only active in their public campaigning early in the year, that is, before the conflict in Ukraine entered its acute phase and became the focus of public attention. As soon as the Ukrainian events displaced everything else on the political agenda, the public activity of the ultra-right started to decline. Moreover, the “Ukrainian question” split the ultra-right milieu into two opposing groups – the ones who saw the new Kiev authorities as “Banderites” harassing the ethnic Russians of the South-Eastern regions, and those who saw the events in Kiev as an example of a nationalist revolution.
In the meantime, the governmental policy related to information and other spheres underwent a radical change. While in the previous year, the ultra-right felt ever-increasing public demand for their trademark anti-immigrant activity, the ongoing fight against Ukrainian “fascists” and “Banderites” has, to some extent, made this topic a taboo. For the first time in many years, public opinion polls have recorded a decrease in the level of xenophobia in the society, and public “anti-banderite” sentiment have been clashing with the core content of traditional ultra-right activities.
Nationalists attempted to compensate for this decline in public interest by piggybacking on the hot Ukraine-related topics, but their efforts can hardly be called successful. The supporters of the “Russian Spring” have simply joined the masses in cheering the official state position - not even in the forefront - thus loosing their own original agenda. Those, who didn’t support the “Russian Spring,” found themselves not just in opposition, but going against the burgeoning tide of the “national unity,” and are in no hurry to conduct actions related to such a hazardous topic.
However, most likely, this effect is temporary. The conflict in Ukraine will sooner or later decrease in relevance, and the interest in classical ethno-nationalist agenda will return.
Unlike the ultra-right political activity, their criminal activity only slightly dropped in comparison with the same period a year before, and the number of murders grew even higher. The “ethnic outsiders” - natives of Central Asia and the Caucasus – still constituted the principal group of victims. The observed decrease (even if it, indeed, represents an actual phenomenon and not just the usual lag in our data collection) gives no cause for optimism; most likely, this difference is explained by the fact that a number of ultra-right militants have temporarily shifted their attention to the events in Ukraine, and some of them even left to participate in hostilities.
In the law enforcement practice, unfortunately, we observe an increasing trend of propaganda-related prosecution taking precedence over the prosecution of violence. However, it is worth noting that members of the St. Petersburg neo-Nazi group NS/WP were sentenced to prison , during the review period.
The number of sentences for propaganda was more than five and half times greater than all all the other convictions. As usual, the offenders were primarily users of the social networks prosecuted for sharing various xenophobic materials. This practice is hardly reasonable or effective. However, the penalties for propaganda have become increasingly adequate; most of the offenders are sentenced to mandatory or corrective work.
Federal list of extremist materials have continued to grow haphazardly and with the same number of errors and repetitions, as before. The uselessness of this cumbersome tool’s is becoming increasingly evident. The system of blocking access to Internet content for “extremism” has become operative. The relevant addresses are added to the Unified Registry of Banned Websites. Restrictions are also imposed in extra-judicial manner, in accordance with the Lugovoy Law.”
The effect of all these measures is, of course, difficult to quantify, but the amount of online or offline hate propaganda demonstrates no signs of shrinking.
Criminal Manifestations of Racism and Xenophobia
During the first six months of 2014, according to our preliminary data, at least at least 74 people became victims of xenophobic and neo-Nazi violence, and . In addition, one person received a credible murder threat. During the comparable period of 2013, seven people were killed and 83 injured; three people received death threats. As can be seen from these figures, the death toll already exceeds the numbers for the same period last year. It should also be borne in mind that this information is far from final and often surfaces after a long delay, so the number of victims in our statistics may increase. However, it is possible that a decline in racist violence actually did take place, and this is due to the fact that a number of ultra-right nationalists temporarily turned their attention to the events in Ukraine, and some militant nationalists are even physically there.
The geographical spread of violence has shown little change. Attacks were recorded in 18 regions of the country. As before, Moscow (5 killed, 13 injured) and St. Petersburg (2 killed, 7 injured) top the list. The Moscow Region (1 killed, 7 injured) and the Krasnodar Region (also 1 killed, 7 injured) come next. This picture is almost identical to the one described in our 2013 semi-annual report. Compared to the preceding year, the situation has deteriorated in the Novosibirsk Region (5 injured) and in the Vladimir Region (3 injured). On the other hand, the situation has improved considerably in the Voronezh Region and the Ryazan Region, which so far didn’t even show up in our records.
Traditionally, the largest number of victims was found among the “ethnic outsiders.” The largest group of victims were migrants from Central Asia - 7 killed, 12 injured), followed by migrants from the Caucasus (3 killed, 7 injured) and people of unspecified “non-Slavic appearance”. (10 injured). The group of violent attack victims also included dark-skinned people (6 injured) and the natives of Japan (2 injured).
In addition to attacks against lone passers-by, there were also cases of gang attacks against the “Caucasians.” For example, on the night of May 10/11, a group of masked young men, armed with baseball bats, attacked “non-Slavic” visitors of Master Pizza pizzeria in the city of Krasnodar. At least eight people were injured; one of them, 25-year-old AdygheTimur Ashinov, later died.
Compared to the preceding year, we saw an increase in attacks on representatives of youth movements and the left (8 injured). The victims of attack include counter-cultural youth and rock musicians in Yekaterinburg, punks in St. Petersburg and participants of the march in memory of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova (musicians from the rock band Arkady Kots and labor union activists).
On the other hand, compared to the previous year, the number of victims among members of religious groups (2 killed, 6 injured) and LGBT (6 beaten) is showing a significant decline. As usual, the latter category includes not only (and not so much) actual representatives of LGBT, but also individuals, perceived as such. For example, on March 23, 2014, a group of young men in Irkutsk attacked the teachers and pupils of Easy School (an English language instruction school) during the school’s St. Patrick’s day celebrations; they were dressed “in historical costumes, including kilts, so that attackers took them for representatives of different sexual orientation.”
Attacks against the homeless continued in 2014 (1 killed, 1 injured); many among the ultra-right (Nazi-Straight-Edge supporters, in particular) consider them “scum” and call for “cleansing the streets” from them. Unfortunately, the majority of such attacks simply remain unreported.
Events in Ukraine added a new overtone to violenct incidents in Russia. Fortunately, the situation has not deteriorated to direct attacks against the “Ukrainians,” and online rhetoric against- ethnic Ukrainians is not yet frequent. This is partly due to the fact that Ukrainians are difficult to identify in the crowd, and they are still perceived as “our Slavic brothers.” However, violence- inclined nationalists could not completely avoid “the Ukrainian theme”. On May 29, two young men beat a man in Tula, who collected money for a “ticket home to Kharkiv,” supposedly just because his appeal for a donation was written in Ukrainian. Likely, they had more than one motive for their attack - the victim was also a drifter. Nevertheless, prior to the current war, the sign in Ukrainian could not have become a pretext for an attack.
Our statistics also includes people injured “by association.” In the past six months, individuals, who tried to defend the “non-Slavs,” also became victims of aggression. For example, one of the women-passengers on a suburban train in Khimki tried to stop the beating of a migrant and was injured as a result.
Contrary to expectations, the number of attacks in April (to mark Hitler's birthday on April 20) show little difference from the previous months. This is, likely, due to the heavy police presence in public places. It can’t be said, however, that Hitler's birthday went completely unmarked. We know of a brutal murder of a migrant from Tajikistan in Moscow and the attack on a youth subculture members in Yekaterinburg. In addition, on the night of April 21, the nationalists set fire to a prosecutor's office in Chelyabinsk and to a police base in Cheboksary.
Arson attempts against government buildings occurred not only in commemoration of Hitler's birthday. For example, unknown people tried to set fire to the building of the Primorsky Regional Court in Vladivostok, which, at that time, was trying the case of notorious Primorye Guerillas (Primorskie partizany) – the group, popular among the ultra-right.
Despite the ongoing preventive disciplinary measures, racism among football fans did not abate. In the period under review the fans at football matches in Moscow, Khimki (the Moscow Region), St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Kaspiysk (the Rostov Region), Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Tula and other cities displayed banners depicting kolovrat-swastikas, Celtic crosses, runes Thor, Odal, Zig and Fehu, associated with German Nazism and tattoos of neo-Nazi symbols. On the eve of the matches, fans drew anti-Caucasian pictures.
Ultra-right football fans repeatedly committed attacks, accompanied by xenophobic slogans and insults, against the fans and players of the FC Anzhi of Dagestan.
Exact number of neo-Nazi soccer fans, who directly or indirectly affect the soccer fandom in general, is unknown. However, their presence is undeniable, and we constantly see its new evidence. Thus, neo-Nazi Gleb Tsyba convicted in February for attacking an anti-fascist and incitement to ethnic hatred, belonged to Einfach Jugend firm of CSKA Moscow.
Vandalism motivated by religious, ethnic or ideological hate continued unabated. In the first six months of 2014 we recorded at least 24 incidents of vandalism in 19 regions of the country. There were 32 such cases over the same period in 2013, but only about 27 of them were included in our half-year report– so, unfortunately, these numbers are still expected to increase.
Monuments to Lenin and other participants of the 1917 revolution, monuments to the soldiers of the Great Patriotic War, buildings that housed branches of the Communist Party (obviously inspired by the actions of the Ukrainian ultra-right) and government buildings constituted the largest group of targets (11 incidents). Other targets of vandalism included buildings of new religious movements (5 incidents), Orthodox churches (4 incidents), and Muslim and Jewish sites (2 incidents in each case).
The actions of vandals were mostly limited to graffiti (11 cases) and breaking windows and other objects (9 cases). However, we also recorded several more dangerous acts of vandalism, namely, 4 cases of arson.
Public Activity of Ultra-Right Groups
Compared to the second half of 2013, the first half of 2014 was marked by significantly lower levels of right-wing radicals’ public activity. Primarily, this change was caused by the general shift from internal to external (Ukraine) focus in Russian political life, as well as with many distracting events, such as the Sochi Olympics and world championships in hockey and soccer.
Position on the “Ukrainian Question”
The nationalists certainly couldn’t remain indifferent to the events in Ukraine - every single ultra-right movement leader is expressing and defending his/her stand on this issue. As often happens in this environment, an event of this magnitude has provoked divisions and conflicts, splitting the nationalists into a group, supporting the idea of the “Russian Spring,” and the other group, which did not share their enthusiasm.
The first category includes leaders of most nationalist movements: Konstantin Krylov and Vladimir Tor (National Democratic Party, NDP), Valery Solovey (New Force, Novaia Sila), Igor Artemov (Russian All-National Union, Russkii obshchenatsional’nyi soiuz, RONS), Andrei Saveliev (Great Russia, Velikaia Rossiia) Vladimir Kvachkov (People's Militia in the Name of Minin and Pozharsky, Narodnoe opolcheniie imeni Minina i Pozharskogo, NOMP), Eduard Limonov (the Other Russia, Drugaia Rossiia), Alexey Zhuravlev (Motherland (Rodina) party), Dmitry Bobrov (National Socialist Initiative, Natsional-sotsialisticheskaia initsiativa, NSI)., Stanislav Vorobyev (Russian Imperial Movement, Russkoie imperskoe dvizhenie, RID), etc. Despite their general belief among this group of nationalists that the conflict in Ukraine has nationalistic overtones and despite their unequivocal support of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and of the Lugansk and Donetsk referendums, their overall understanding of the situation and their interpretation of the Russian authorities’ motives vary widely.
Representatives of this group diverge even in their understanding of the “nationality issue” in Ukraine. Some of them, such as the NDP and the New Force, believe that Ukraine is experiencing a conflict between “Banderite” Ukrainians of the central and western regions with the Russians of the south-eastern regions, while others, such as Vorobyov and Saveliev, believe that, de-facto, there are no Ukrainians in Ukraine, and we see a conflict between two groups of Russians,one of whom was “confused” by “Ukrainization” by the enemies of Russia from the West.
The nationalists’ view of Russia’s policy toward Ukraine is even more complex. Many of them, (i.e. the leaders of the Motherland party, the People's Council (Narodnyi Sobor), and even, with some reservations, the leaders of NDP and the Other Russia) accept the official paradigm and agree that Vladimir Putin’s policy of annexing Crimea and providing support to separatists in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions is aimed at protecting the Russian interests on this territory. The others -most of them extremly opposed to the regime - while approving the steps undertaken so far, still believe that the Russian president is not motivated by protecting the interests of the Russians, but uses the Ukrainian crisis for his own ends. The understanding of Putin’s goals varies as well. Some nationalists think that Putin used the situation in Ukraine to substantially curtail political freedoms in Russia “on the sly.” and to build a more conservative model of domestic policy in general; others insist that he acted in order to raise his falling political rating; still others believe that his goal was to create a negative image of nationalists per se (referring to the Russian media campaign against “fascists” in Ukraine) and to put pressure on the “Russian movement” inside Russia. As always, there were some conspiracy theories. The most popular one talks about the Russian president’s collusion with the West (the West is sometimes replaced by the “global oligarchy”) secretly dividing Ukraine into the spheres of influence; Russia gets Crimea, and EU gets everything else.
The leaders of the above-mentioned nationalist movements find themselves in a very inconsistent position. On the one hand, the majority of nationalists in this category (excluding, of course, obviously pro-governmental organizations such as the Motherland party or the People's Council) view the current political regime in Russia as “anti-Russian” and hope that adding new “Russian” areas may result in a drive to improve (from nationalist perspective) the situation in the Russian Federation and weaken the Putin regime. At the same time, they expect the “anti-Russian Putin regime” to deploy its troops in Ukraine and, ideally, annex not only the Crimea, but also other parts of Ukraine.
The “Russian Spring” opponents are somewhat more consistent in their views. This group includes the Moscow leaders of “the Russians” (Russkie) Association Dmitry Demushkin, Vladimir Basmanov, and, as far as we know, Alexander Belov; the National Democrats’ (Natsional’nye demokraty) leader Semen Pikhtelev (this movement is also part of “the Russians” Association); the leader of the Russian Run (Russkaia probezhka) in St. Petersburg Maxim Kalinichenko; former member the “Restruct!” movement political council Roman Zheleznov; the leader of the Slavic Force in St. Petersburg Dmitry Yevtushenko, and others.
The range of opinions in this group is smaller than that of the “Russian Spring” supporters; the discrepancies are not as fundamental, and their overall position is, paradoxically, closer to the views held by the liberal opposition. This group sees the Maidan movement, first and foremost, as the struggle of Ukrainian citizens against the corrupt regime of Viktor Yanukovych and not as an “orange scenario of the West;” the conflict between Kiev and the separatist regions of Ukraine is viewed as deliberately fueled by the Russian political regime, which seeks to prevent the neighboring country from building its national state out of fear of the “export of revolution”. Most pro-Maidan nationalists believe that the Russian authorities artificially bring the issue of ethnicity into the conflict (the Ukrainians of the country’s West and center against the Russians of the South-East), whereas in reality the differences are ideological in nature – people, who want to build their independent national state against Russia’s supporters, who long for paternalism and are nostalgic for the Soviet Union. The latter are often referred to as “vatniks” (a derogatory nickname derived from a cheap cotton-filled winter coat); the ultra-right often refer to representatives of a similar ideology inside Russia as “vegetables.”
The successful annexation of Crimea - and the likely annexation of other regions of Ukraine - is either not welcomed by this group or welcomed with great reservations, since the political regime in Russia is considered to be anti-Russian, and, therefore, it is assumed that the Russians living in Ukraine are better off either staying in the country, which freed itself from an oligarchic regime, or acquiring independence.
As previously mentioned, the difference of opinions on the “Ukrainian question” has provoked a discord among the ultra right.
Opponents of the “Russian Spring” harshly criticized the NDP leaders K. Krylov and V. Tor, as well as journalists Yegor Kholmogorov and Yegor Prosvirnin (of the popular “Sputnik and Pogrom” website), whose opinion on events in Ukraine, starting from the Maidan, have moved increasingly closer to a point of view broadcast by the central Russian media. They came close to earning the labels of paid Kremlin agents, traitors and “vatniks.” The schism left on the opposite sides former relatively stable allies, such as the Moscow leaders of “the Russians” and their Moscow counterparts from the NDP.
Nationalists, accused of serving the interests of the Kremlin, retorted by labeling their opponents “Banderites” and accomplices of the “Kiev junta.” As it often happens among Russian nationalists, the flood of mutual recriminations ended by both sides denying each other the right to be called “Russian nationalists.” One side claimed that their opponents don’t support the Russians, and the other responded with accusations of betraying the ideals of nationalism.
Polarization occurred not only between different movements, but also within them due to a difference in positions between the leaders and their rank-and-file activists. For example, a number of activists left the NDP due to their disagreement with the leadership on the “Ukrainian question.” R. Zheleznov was expelled from Restruct! for his support for the “Right Sector.” Reportedly, the heads of the regional offices of the Other Russia in Novosibirsk, Murmansk and the Khanty-Mansiysk left the party, along with a number of rank-and-file activists who disagreed with Limonov’s new strategic turn. Disgruntled members of “the Russians” complained that their Moscow leadership does not allow them to hold rallies in support of the South-East of Ukraine, and a number of the association’s information resources, for example their page on VKontakte social network, declared a moratorium on discussing Ukraine.
Thus, the “Ukrainian question” triggered some degree of the ultra-right milieu reformatting. The degree of stability of these emergent distinction between “supporters” and “dissenters” is still unclear; after all, the nationalist environment is quite accustomed to all sorts of schisms and conflicts. Moreover, ideological conflicts between the leaders of major ultra-right organizations in the two capitals often receive little or no attention in the regions, where the activists of conflicting movements continue their cooperation, built on the interpersonal level.
Among the autonomous neo-Nazis, representing, as you may recall, the numerical majority in the Russian nationalist movement, there is also no consensus regarding Ukraine.
Among the entire set of opinions and approaches observed in online discussions, three positions are the most common.
The first one assumes that the conflict in Ukraine is the result of a Zionist conspiracy and the ”showdown” among a number of Jews. The new president Poroshenko is called, almost exclusively, Poroshenko-Vaisman, and people, siding with the Kiev government, are the “Svidomy Ukro-Turks,” and puppets of the country-robbing Zionists. The struggle for autonomy in the Donbas is seen as resistance against the Kiev oligarchy, but “Novorossiya” is advised against joining the Russian Federation, since autonomous neo-Nazis don’t see the current Russian political regime as being any better than the one in Kiev.
Supporters of the second common approach view residents of the Ukrainian South-East as “vatniks” and “sovoks” (Homo Soveticus) and are more inclined to support the Kiev side. Naturally, the possibility of annexing parts of Ukrainian South-East to Russia is viewed negatively, since the newcomers are likely to join the ranks of “vegetables” or fans of the Putin regime. Moreover, there is a widespread belief that fighters on the “vatnik” side are primarily the Chechen infiltrators from Russia, whose deaths are frequently met with great joy and expressions of gratitude to the Ukrainians.
The third view, commonly expressed by autonomous neo-Nazis, is best described by the formula “a plague on both your houses” and represents a synthesis of the previous two viewpoints. It suggests that the conflict between the “Ukro-Turks” and “vatniks” is a good thing, and the more they kill each other, the better.
These discussions, however, are almost invisible on the political scene, since autonomous groups show up on this scene only occasionally, usually during the marches on May 1 and, particularly, on November 4.
On the other hand, the most determined activists, representing all nationalist positions, have simply left for Ukraine to participate in fighting. Their number is hard to estimate, but we can say that the majority went there to fight for “the Russians” and not for the Ukrainian “national revolution.”
“Spin” on Criminal Incidents
In early 2014, prior to the start of the Olympics and the acute stage of the Ukrainian conflict, we observed persisting trends continued from 2013. As you may remember, the preceding year set a record in the number of criminal incidents, involving local residents on the one hand and migrants on the other, that were transformed into political events. Due to mass involvement and a strong resonance, these events set the direction for the nationalists’ public activity.
Subsequently, the first relatively resonant story of 2014 was yet another criminal incident in the Moscow district of Biryulyovo, namely, the murder of a pregnant 17-year-old Anastasia Moskovkina. Initial reports informed only that the girl had been brutally murdered, and that a young man of “non-Slavic appearance” had been caught on surveillance cameras. The news produced much excitement among the ultra-right, and calls for a “people's gathering” quickly proliferated. However, the media fairly soon reported that the murder suspect was a possible father of the child, i.e. the victim allegedly had had a sexual relationship with a native of the Caucasus. This new development has split ultra-right field. Many said that the victim was an “inkwell”, not worth defending because the outcome was her own fault; the others believed that the information about the victim’s relationship with a migrant from the Caucasus was deliberately planted by the authorities in order to discredit her. Later, a variety of information, not conducive to the nationalist spin, began to surface: some sources claimed that the victim’s partner had an alibi, some - that a suspect of “Slavic appearance” had already been arrested, still others - that the young woman was involved in prostitution and then attempted to use her pregnancy to blackmail her former clients, etc. As a result, most of the autonomous nationalists rather quickly lost interest in the incident, despite the efforts by local residents and “the Russians” association. The latter organized a “people gathering” in Biryulyovo on January 25, but it was only attended by about 100 people. The participants demanded resignation of the district administration and the heads of district law enforcement agencies, and suggested organizing self-defense brigades. According to our data, about 30 activists were arrested, including some members of Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (Liberal’no Demokraticheskaya partiia Rossii, LDPR). Thus, the observed activity level never reached the level that had preceded the Biryulyovo unrest in October 2013; even in local groups on VKontakte social network, many users simply ignored the story, and some wrote that attending these “gatherings” serves no purpose. As a result, it can be said that the large police presence in the area attracted more attention than the incident itself.
Another “people’s assembly” with xenophobic overtones took place on January 11 near the central stadium in Astrakhan. It brought together about 150 local residents and was triggered by the death of local girl Galia Borisenko, who, according to a number of media outlets and local online forums, had been kidnapped and turned into a slave of a migrant from Dagestan. It was reported that the authorities made no attempts to investigate the matter, so the girl eventually committed suicide by jumping out the window. Journalists de-facto ignored the gathering, but nationalists noticed the activity among the locals. On January 20, the local branches of “the Russians” and the NDP embarked on organizing a rally “against ethnic crime,” hoping that the story could retain relevance and bring together a large number of people. However, these hopes failed to materialize, and the event attracted no more than 50 activists; local residents de-facto ignored the action.
Another anti-immigrant rally was attempted on February 1 in St. Petersburg. It was organized by the NSI and joined by activists of “the Russians” and the National Democrats. The event took place on Grazhdansky Prospekt – the site of an attempted robbery of women-retirees, presumably by immigrants from Central Asia. However, the action failed to attract a sufficient number of participants, and was attended by no more than 50-60 people. Since the event was conducted without a permit, it could have received additional publicity from dispersal by the police, which also didn’t happen. The law enforcement chose not to intervene and only demanded that the organizers remove nationalist symbols.
Since February, the events in Ukraine started to displace other news items, and a series of actions “against ethnic crime” came to an end. A relevant incident broke through the “Ukrainian blockade” in May - the death of FC Spartak fan Leonid Safyannikov on May 13 in a fight with two men, one of whom was a 25-year-old native of Uzbekistan. It led to another public event under xenophobic slogans, the largest so far this year. On May 15, soccer fans gathered at Pushkino train station and conducted a spontaneous rally near the railway station and a march through the city. Chanting the slogans “Moscow without chinks!” (Rossiia bez churok!) and “Russians, forward!” (Russkie, vpered!), 300-500 marchers (according to different estimates) proceeded to a migrant dormitory, where they were stopped by riot police; then they went to the City Administration building. As a result, some market stalls and a construction site were vandalized. The police detained about 60 people.
The information about this action was widely circulated on ultra-right internet forums and websites, as well as in the conventional media. However, the alleged killer was arrested almost immediately; the police reported that all illegal immigrants would be deported from the city, and the city police chief lost his job. There was no pretext for any further activity, and, as far as we can tell, the major far-right organizations didn’t even plan any related public events.
However, in the wake of this action, the calls from unidenfied sources flooded the internet, imploring the activists to come to Manezhnaya Square on May 18 for “Down with Putin in the Kremlin” rally. The fact that the event had anything to do with Safyannikov’s death was never mentioned, but, since Manezhnaya Square was chosen as a gathering place and the calls began to appear after the Pushkino pogrom, the organizers of “Manezhka-2” were immediately assumed to be nationalists.
All major ultra-right and soccer fan movements declared that they had no relation to this event, and many even called it a provocation. There have been several theories regarding its presumed organizer, and, of course, they couldn’t fail to include Ukraine - the most significant current news item. Some people claimed that the “Right Sector” supporters were trying to arrange the “Maidan” in Moscow; others thought that it was a provocation by the authorities in order to discredit any possibility of the Maidan in Russia, because lack of attendance at the event would be interpreted as unanimous support the president's policy. In any case, only a few small groups of the ultra-right came to Manezhnaya Square in Moscow on May 18 and then quickly dispersed; there were no events at all in other cities.
Finally, in June, the sentencing in the murder case of FC Zenit fan Yevgeniy Dmitriev (who died in February of the previous year in a fight with the migrants from the Caucasus) could have become a noticeable event among the ultra-right - but never did. The defendant in this case was Murad Musayev, a native of Dagestan, who had been previously detained there. He was charged under Part 4 of the Criminal Code Article 111 (“Infliction of grievous bodily harm resulting in death of the victim”). The prosecutor pressed charges under this article; however, the Court’s ruling reclassified the case under Article 109 (“Causing death by negligence”) and sentenced Musaev to 1 year and 10 months in prison. Moreover, the inmate was released from custody in the courtroom; since he had already served the greater part of his prison term, the court changed the measure of restraint to travel restrictions. Despite the similarities between this situation with the case of Rasul Mirzoyev and a high level of activity by the football fans, the story got almost no attention from the far right. After the sentencing on June 15, Manezhnaya Square in St. Petersburg hosted a meeting of the soccer fans with lawyer Anton Zharuk, who was protecting the interests of the relatives of the deceased. About 200 people attended the gathering. The lawyers promised the audience to challenge the verdict; then the attendees dispersed peacefully.
As we see, ultra-right organizations viewed the “spin” on criminal incidents as one of their flagship areas of activity early in the year. Almost immediately after the Ukrainian question came to the forefront, they de-facto “frozen” this direction and didn’t even use the two stories that presented almost ideal causes for public actions.
Ultra-Right Public Events
During the period under review, nationalists were also rather sluggish in conducting their political public events, and none of these gained any notoriety.
The reduced level of activity was already evident during the Heroes Day rallies – traditionally, the first nationalist event of the year. The Heroes Day on March 1 was established in memory of the Pskov paratroopers who died in 2000 in a fight in Chechnya. The overwhelming majority of actions on that day are limited to laying flowers at war memorials.
In 2014, the events were only held in nine cities: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Khimki, Astrakhan, Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod, Penza, Ryazan, and Khabarovsk. The most massive of them, in the capital, was attended by 40 activists from “the Russians” Association and RFO Memory (Pamiat)). For comparison, the preceding Heroes Day was held in almost 20 cities, and the Moscow event attracted about 100 people.
In the spring, with the events in Ukraine gaining momentum, a number of pro-“Russian Spring” far-right organizations undertook meetings and rallies in support of the South-East of Ukraine. A significant number of these events took place in many regions of the country, although, notably, they also failed to attract participants in large numbers. These rallies were carried out by the NDP, the New Force (Novaya Sila), the Motherland (Rodina) party, the Russian Imperial Movement (Russkoe imperskoe dvizhenie, RID), the Other Russia, and almost every other “Novorossiya” sympathizer. During these actions, and along with them, ultra-right organizations collected funds and humanitarian aid for “Novorossiya,” and also tried to recruit volunteers to join the militia in Ukraine.
Some ultra-right activists also attempted public demonstrations with the opposite agenda. For example, a rally in support of the Maidan that had nationalists among its participants was held in St. Petersburg on February 16. About 100 attendees included activists from the following organizations: National Democrats, Russian Runs, Progress Party (Partiia progressa), Party of December 5 (Partiia 5 dekabria), Republican Party of Russia - People's Freedom Party (Respublikanskaia partiia Rossii – Partiia narodnoi svobody, RPR-PARNAS), Ingria movement, and Movement for the Supreme Council (Dvizhenie za Verkhovnyi Sovet). Semen Pikhtelev addressed the gathering and spoke about friendship between Russian and Ukrainian nationalists and about a Maidan that was to take place in Russia. However, the event was also visited by the opponents of the Ukrainian revolution. A group headed by Anatoly Artyukh, the leader of the St. Petersburg People's Council, attempted to disrupt the rally. They heckled the speakers, shouted insults at the attendees and called them fascists. Artyukh also tried to grab the imperial flag away from the ultra-right attendees, arguing that that had no right to it. The police detained Artyukh and his associates for obstructing the rally.
Some activists from “the Russians,” Memory, Russian United National Alliance (Russkii ob’edinennyi natsional’nyi soiuz, RONA), Svetlana Peunova’s Will (Volya) party, and a group of right-wing radicals under the kolovrat flag attended the Peace March in Moscow on March 15, which took the form of a general march of the opposition. As far as we can tell, the “Russian Spring” opponents held no other prominent actions on the subject of Ukraine, apparently fearing the outflow of their activists and the counteraction on behalf of the authorities.
Nationalists tried to take their focus off Ukraine by continuing their 2013 campaign against the amendments to the Law “On Citizenship of the Russian Federation,” intended to simplify naturalization for immigrants from the former Soviet republics.
“The Russians” Association, NDP, the New Force and others held a series of pickets, small rallies and sticker actions against the introduction of these amendments. It should be immediately noted, that the scope of this campaign was not even close to the similarly-themed campaign of the preceding year, which called for the visa regime with the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus. In 2013, the initiative was discussed by representatives of all political movements and enjoyed extensive media coverage; this time, the nationalist campaign received practically no media attention.
The events were held in different cities, but attracted no big crowds. Even the April 13 rally in St. Petersburg, organized by a coalition that included “the Russians,”, the NDP, the National Democrats, the New Force, the Democratic Choice (Demokraticheskii vybor) and the Progress Party, numbered only 50 - 70 participants.
The wording of the amendments was changed after the first reading. While, previously, the amendments allowed Russian speakers, whose ancestors had lived in the Soviet Union or the Russian Empire, to apply for citizenship under the simplified procedure, now the applicant’s ancestors had to have resided within the borders of the modern-day Russian Federation in order to be eligible for the simplified procedure. Nationalists interpreted this change as their victory, although it hardly had anything to do with their campaign.
Once the changes had been made, the NDP and most other organizations lost interest in this campaign, but “the Russians” still persisted. Their next step was based on the Federal Migration Service statute On the formation and work of the commissions for the recognition of a foreign citizen or stateless person as a native speaker of Russian language, which didn’t specify additional territorial restrictions related to the fact that the applicant’s ancestors had to reside within the present-day borders of Russia.
“The Russians” declared their fight against this “citizenship give-away” the main subject of the “Russian May Day” - the most significant nationalist event of the spring. Not everyone, however, was interested in this agenda. A number of “Russian Spring” supporters announced that the May Day should focus on supporting residents of the South-Eastern regions of Ukraine, and this controversy led to a number of conflicts among the ultra-right.
It was then, that the discord between the Moscow leaders of “the Russians” and the NDP exacerbated, and, in each other’s eyes, they turned into “Banderites” and “the Kremlin’s servants,” respectively. Nationalist Maxim Kalinichenko, who organized a separate column under black flags at the St. Petersburg ultra-right May Day march, was also excoriated as a “Banderite” for his call to bring to the event the flags of “brotherly people of Ukraine in support of their fight against the barbaric intervention in internal affairs of an independent state.”
While the disagreements over the agenda, in fact, had no effect on the course of the St. Petersburg rally, in Moscow, the discord led to three (rather than the usual two - the primary and the alternate) Russian May Days in the capital.
The first march, organized by “the Russians” proceeded along the traditional route from Oktyabrskoe Pole metro station to Shchukinskaya metro station. The action was dedicated to the protest against the policy of “citizenship give-away”. The event attracted about the same number of activists as in the preceding year ago, that is, about 500 people. As usual, representatives of the Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers (four of them this time) headed the procession, followed by “the Russians” Association column, led by A. Belov and D. Demushkin. The latter were followed by representatives of the Russian Run, Restruct! and neo-pagans. About 50 supporters of Vladimir Istarkhov’s Russian Right Party (Rossiiskaia pravaia partiia) held banners with the party insignia and chanted anti-Western and homophobic slogans. Activists of the RFO Memory (whose leader, George Borovikov, incidentally, was convicted for purely criminal activities in June along with a group of his associates) carried the banner “Faith! Race! Tradition! “(Vera! Rasa! Traditsiia!). A group of seven people under the banner of the National Union (Natsional’nyi soiuz) marched next. Toward the end of the procession, 22 people carried a giant imperial flag - a constant attribute of ultra-right events. “The Russians” column closed the procession. Insignia of mixed martial arts club Styag and the Guestbusters project were also observed. The marchers carried numerous imperial banners, “Citizenship only for our own” banners, etc. Much of the audience was dressed in Russian folk costumes. It is worth noting that the march was also attended by two women wearing Ukrainian flower wreaths. A post-march rally took place as planned, but the concert, scheduled after the rally, had to be cancelled: Denis Gerasimov, the leader of Kolovrat band, was detained by police on the morning on May 1. A. Belov, D. Demushkin, R. Zheleznov, A. Gruzinov (nominated by the regional branch of Motherland party), Alex Kolegov (the Northern Border (Rubezh severa) leader from the Komi Republic) and the Right Party leader V. Istarkhov addressed the rally.
The second Moscow May Day event, dedicated to the support of the South-East of Ukraine, was organized by the NDP and the Russian Social Movement (Russkoe obshchestvennoe dvizhenie, ROD) Human Rights Center. The rally took place in Gorky Park. The organizers scheduled the rally in a way that allowed activists, who wanted to participate in “the Russians” action, to attend both events. As a result, the rally brought together up to 180 people. The participants held banners of the NDP, ROD, and the Holy Russia movement, the Donetsk Republic movement flag, a flag bearing the word “Sevastopol,” imperial flags, etc., as well as photographs of people, who died in the Eastern Ukrainian cities. K. Krylov, V. Tor, the head of the ROD Human Rights Center Natalia Kholmogorova, Yegor Kholmogorov, and writer Yelena Chudinova spoke at the rally. Representative of the People's Republic of Donetsk Aleksandr Matyushin, one of the “Odessa Squad” leaders Dmitry Odinov, Aleksandr Svetlichnyi from the Luhansk Region and Aleksandr Rumyantsev from the Donetsk Region also addressed the participants.
The third event was held in Moscow district of Lyublino by the Russian Action Coalition (Russkaia koalitsiia deistviia), i.e. the Great Russia, the NOMP, “For responsible authority” (Za otvetstvennuiu vlast’, ZOV), and others. Similarly to the NDP rally, this march was dedicated to the support of the South-East of Ukraine and called “Russian spring - Russian unity” (Russkaia vesna – russkoe edinstvo). The activists marched along the Pererva street to the Soldier of the Fatherland monument, where the rally took place. The rally gathered the same number of people as in the preceding year, about 150 activists. About 20 Orthodox Banner-Bearers, a column of about 50 Great Russia members with their party insignia, a comparable number of the NOMP supporters, Volya and ZOV representatives, Cossacks and supporters of other movements and organizations.
Nationalists in St. Petersburg took part in a citywide May Day march, breaking up into separate columns and blocks, according to their “interests”. The march was attended by activists of the Motherland party, the RID, National Socialist Initiative (NSI), the NDP, the “Russians,” the Other Russia, the “Right to arms” movement, as well as the “healthy lifestyle” activists and above- mentioned autonomous National Socialists under black flags. Total number of attendees came to about 350 people, slightly exceeding the numbers of the preceding year, when about 300 right-wing radicals came out to the streets.
Overall attendance of the May Day remained virtually unchanged, although, its geographical distribution somewhat decreased, for the first time, to 20 cities (compared to 22 in 2013). In most cases, the changes in numbers in either direction were negligible.
It is worth noting that several cities held such events for the first time: Veliky Novgorod, Irkutsk, Kazan and Ufa. On the one hand, the fact that the Russian May Day comes to new cities was good news for nationalists, but, on the other hand, narrower geographic distribution of the march indicated that the “Russian May Day” was discontinued in a number of cities.
It is likely that a noticeable change of location for an event can be a form of reaction by the ultra-right milieu to the shift from the traditional topics to new ones, triggered by the developments in Ukraine - in some regions the change resulted in confusion and disagreement among potential march organizers; in the other ones, on the contrary, it prompted a greater number of nationalists to take to the streets. In the end, most of the regional events are poorly attended (usually fewer then 50 people, and in most cases fewer than 20), and, hence, their existence depends on activity levels and negotiating abilities of only a small number of people. It is also possible that attempts to organize a Russian May Day with an agenda, other than support of Novorossiya, have now met a more active opposition from the local authorities.
Summing up, we have to admit that the Russian May Day was not particularly successful this year – yet another schism in Moscow, the cessation of growth in the event’s overall attendance, and narrowing of its geography.
After the May Day, the public nationalist activity was almost non-existent. Their attention was devoted to following the events in Ukraine and the Internet discussions.
On the other hand, the onset of warm season led to intensification of such activities as summer training schools, seminars and camps, raids (more on them below), and - for the “Russian Spring” supporters – collecting and shipping humanitarian assistance to the South-East of Ukraine
Rallies in support of Novorossiya continued but achieved no further resonance. Of course, we don’t imply complete absence of any public events whatsoever, but most of them were poorly attended and related to local issues.
Ultra-Right Raiding Activity
Various raids, based on the “social” agenda and designed to demonstrate active civic engagement have become one of the most popular activities of far-right over the past few years. Unexpected media interest in these initiatives, which occasionally allowed the ultra-right to break through the information blockade, became the key guarantee of the raids’ popularity among right-wing radicals.
Formally, any issue can become a theme for a raid, but some fashion considerations are present here as well - while, in 2012, the most popular raids were the ones against pedophiles (popularized by the “Occupy-pedofilyay” movement led Maksim Martsinkievich), the year after, nationalists were busy searching for “illegal immigrants.“ It is worth recalling that, in the second half of 2013, almost all relatively large ultra-right associations created their own raiding groups, and the actions themselves turned from a secondary activity, used to fill the gaps between political campaigns, into a primary focus of activity.
This year, however, the raiding initiatives have been undergoing the same crisis as other traditional ultra-right activities.
In early 2014, the nationalists were still quite active, developing their existing raiding groups and creating new branches in other cities. The Great Russia launched its anti-immigrant “StopNelegal” project in Chelyabinsk; new branches of the Guestbusters (a project of “the Russians” association) appeared in Yaroslavl and Dolgoprudny, and new and old groups announced that they were recruiting activists to search for “illegals.”
Gradually, the frequency of raids began to decline. Journalists were much less likely to accompany nationalists, and the ones who did mostly came from little-known or foreign media outlets.
As early as the spring, the crisis became evident, and a number of attempts were made to find new content for raiding initiatives in order to regain the declining public interest, since the search for “illegals” in their dormitories no longer attracted attention.
For example, the movement Shield of Moscow (Shchit Moskvy) undertook a raid in April with a new agenda of capturing unlicensed taxi drivers. The ultra-right also engaged in searching for “rubber apartments;” for example, when St. Petersburg and Syktyvkar activists thought to have found such an apartment, they affixed the sticker to its door, “Warning! Rubber apartment! More than 100 people registered!” They, then, photographed the door with the sticker and posted the picture on the Internet along with the address. Nationalists also conducted raids against alcoholism and smoking. For example, an underage activist would go to a cafe (usually owned by “non-Slavs”) and attempted to buy alcohol and cigarettes. If his quest was in any way successful, the nationalists would call the police. Fight against alcoholism was conducted in other ways too –a “Sober courtyards” movement emerged this summer in St. Petersburg. Nationalists are supposed to patrol the neighborhood and prevent drinking of alcoholic beverages on the streets.
We have repeatedly noted that we view such raids, even if conducted with the best of intentions, as unacceptable. Ultra-right activists often try to act as law enforcement officials, with no corresponding rights, no proper training, and no moral restrictions on the use of violence. Their activities are often simply illegal and provocative, leading to conflicts that may harm activists themselves (often still minors) as well as their victims or even passers-by.
As we feared, the raiding activity in the first half of 2014 led to the first murder. 37-year-old citizen of Azerbaijan Zaur Alyshev, suspected of drug trafficking, was killed in Moscow in early June in a fight with members of the Occupy-narkofilyay movement, a project of Restruct!. Law enforcement agencies responded to the incident pretty quickly. More precisely, they started paying attention to Restruct!. In January, even prior to the incident, M. Martsinkevich, who had escaped to Cuba, was extradited to Moscow, but at that time the pressure on the movement started to increase. First, the murder suspects were arrested, then the Occupy-Narkofilyay headquarters were searched, and, in late June, the riot police dispersed the movement’s conference.
Most likely, the activity of radical groups associated with Restruct! will decline somewhat, although this development can also have the opposite effect on the ultra-right movement in general - for the first time since last fall, the raid actions attracted the attention of the media and the society.
Counter-action to Radical Nationalism
Annual Russia-wide action, commemorating the deaths of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, which took place on January 19 in 11 Russian cities (compared to 15 cities in 2013), was the most important event among the efforts of civil society activists to counter xenophobia in the first 6 months of 2013. The anti-fascist march and rally in Moscow was attended by 650 people (about the same number as in the previous year). The action took place without any incidents, but several attacks on participants took place right after its end.
Protesters in other cities also faced threats and attacks from the far right. In St. Petersburg, on the eve of the march, nationalists from the Great Russia (Northwest) posted online threats in connection with the alleged presence of LGBT activists at the event – ostensibly, the LGBT were ““disgracing the celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord.” There were several clashes between neo-Nazis and event participants on Vosstaniya Square. In Perm, the screening of Valery Balayan’s documentary about Anastasia Baburova, Love Me, Please, timed to coincide with this date, was cancelled due to threats from right-wing radicals.
The January 19 events are supposedly organized predominantly by left-wing antifascists. This movement is still active, but previously they had been mostly known for the actions of their “militant antifa” wing, and, by now, the street war between the neo-Nazi and anti-fascists has practically disappeared.
The number of verdicts for violent crime, where the hate motive was recognized by the court, remained approximately the same as in the previous year. In the first 6 months of 2014, there were at least 11 convictions in 9 regions issued to 28 people (During the similar period in 2013, we recorded 17 convictions in 14 regions, also to 28 offenders).
When prosecuting racist violence, the judiciary used almost the entire range of the Criminal Code articles pertaining to violent crime that contained hate motive as aggravating circumstance. The Criminal Code Article 282 (“incitement of hatred”) was utilized in four convictions. In three of them, including the verdict to skinheads from the neo-Nazi group NS/WP, it was used for isolated episodes of ultra-right propaganda. The fourth verdict, issued in the Stavropol Region, utilized Part 2 Paragraph “a” of Article 282 (“incitement of hatred committed with violence or threat of violence”) for attacking the passer-by while shouting xenophobic slogans and insults. The text of the article allows to qualify violent actions in this manner. In accordance with Resolution No. 11 of the plenary meeting of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation “Concerning Judicial Practice in Criminal Cases Regarding Crimes of Extremism,” adopted on June 28, 2011, the application of Article 282 to violent crimes is considered appropriate if the crimes were aimed at inciting hate in third parties, for example, through public and provocative ideologically motivated attack. Indeed, the Article is appropriately utilized in this case, since the attack took place in public, and the victim was not significantly injured.
Court decisions in cases of violent crimes were distributed as follows:
- 1 person received a custodial sentence of 24 years;
- 2 people – up to 20 years;
- 4 people – 10 to 15 years;
- 8 people – 5 to 10 years;
- 4 people – up to 3 years;
- 1 person received a custodial sentence of up to one year;
- 2 people were sentenced to mandatory labor;
- 3 people were sentenced to correctional labor;
- 1 person received a suspended sentence to correctional labor;
- 2 people received a suspended sentence with no additional penalty.
The fact that the majority of the offenders (20 people) were sentenced to actual prison terms indicates improvement in the law enforcement work in this area. All these penalties were imposed for serious violent attacks, some of them involving weapons. Neo-Nazis from St. Petersburg group NS/WP (accused of committing a series of crimes, including 10 murders and four attempted murders in April 2009 through January 2010) comprised a significant share of the offenders that ended up behind bars.
Only two people received suspended sentences for violent crimes. One of them, Roman Veits of NS/WP, accepted a deal with the investigation and is unlikely to come back to the ultra-right community and go for a racist crime in the future. The second one was a resident of Samara, who threatened the victim with a stationery knife with the words “I will kill you, Jew!” And “Die, Jew!” Perhaps, the fact that the attacker had inflicted no actual injuries was the reason for this lenient sentence.
We know of only one sentence (the case of neo-Nazi Gleb Tsyba), in which the convicted person was ordered to pay a financial compensation to the victim for moral harm and medical expenses. Regretfully, the media very rarely reports on such court decision. We consider ordering offenders to compensate for treatment and rehabilitation of their victims an appropriate practice.
The verdict issued in Yekaterinburg against members of ultra-right association Perun Warriors – SS (Voiny Peruna – SS) is worth noting as well; they were sentenced to long prison terms for their murder of a homeless person. Earlier, the investigation believed that the murder had been motivated by ideological hatred, but the case was reclassified during the trial, and ideological motive was excluded.
The trend of accelerated growth of propaganda-related prosecution, in comparison with the prosecutions for other kinds of extremist crime, only deepened in 2014. The number of propaganda-related convictions was more than five and half times greater than the number of violence-related convictions, and the number of people, convicted for propaganda, constitutes more than twice the number of convicted violent offenders. In the first six months of 2014 at least 61 convictions for xenophobic propaganda against 61 people were delivered in 36 regions of the country. During the comparable period in 2013, we recorded 50 convictions against 50 people in 31 region (we do not include the verdicts that we consider inappropriate).
As usual, Article 282 was utilized in the majority of cases (55 out of 61). In 49 cases people were charged under this article only. Six cases only involved Article 280 (“public incitement to extremist activity”); two people were sentenced under the aggregation of Articles 282 and 280.
Besides the aforementioned Article 280, the Criminal Code Article 282 УК was also used in aggregation with other criminal charges, such as Article 228 (“Illegal acquisition of Narcotic Drugs or Psychotropic Substances”), Article 213 (“Hooliganism”), etc.
The court verdicts for the propaganda cases were distributed as follows:
- 6 people received custodial sentences;
- 4 people received suspended sentences without additional sanctions;
- 10 people were sentenced to various fines;
- 18 people were sentenced to correctional labor;
- 21 people were sentenced to mandatory labor
- 1 person was referred for compulsory medical treatment;
- 1 person released from punishment due to active repentance
Steadily dropping number of suspended sentences for propaganda constitutes a positive development, since such verdicts, according to our observations, have proven ineffective. The majority of offenders, convicted in 2014, were sentenced to mandatory or correctional labor or various fines (49 people), far exceeding the number of suspended sentences (4 people).
Prison sentences for “words only” were delivered in the cases that also involved other charges, including violence (for example, the aforementioned NS/ WP members or neo-Nazi Gleb Tsyba), took into account previously committed crimes, or pertained to offenders already serving sentences for criminal activity.
The only custodial sentence that we consider overly harsh is the decision of the Butyrskiy District Court in Moscow in the case of Boris Stomakhin, the editor-in- chief of the Radical Politics newsletter. Stomakhin was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison under the aggregation of Part 1 of the Criminal Code Article 280, Part 1 of Article 282, Part 1 of Article 2052 (“apology of terrorism”) the Criminal Code Article 30 and Part 2 of Article 2052 (“Preparation for a public apology of terrorism, using the media”) for publishing several articles on the Internet and in the newsletter. Although it was clearly not the first time Stomakhin broke the law (he was asentenced to 5 years imprisonment under part 1 of the Criminal Code Article 282 and Part 2 of Article 280 in 2006),) the punishment is excessive, in our opinion, not only because it imposed for “words only”, but also because the audience of the resources that published the incriminating articles was obviously small.
As in the preceding years, the vast majority of propaganda convictions pertained to online publications. During the first six months of 2014 there were 49 such cases (out of 61), continuing the upward trend in the share of “the Internet” propaganda convictions.
Materials that resulted in convictions for online propaganda were posted on the following Internet resources
- social networks – 44 convictions (including Vkontakte (29), Odnoklassniki (3), unidentified social networks (12);
- online forums – 2 convictions;
- unspecified Internet resources – 3 convictions.
The genre distribution is as follows (the same resource could feature more then one genre)
- video – 19 convictions;
- images (photo or drawings) – 9 convictions;
- audio (songs, including songs by Kolovrat band) – 6 convictions;
- texts (including Mein Kampf and Catechism of the Jew in the USSR (Katekhisis Ievreia v SSSR) – 9 convictions;
- comments on social networks or forum posts – 9 convictions;
- creating neo-Nazi groups – 1 conviction;
- unknown – 2 convictions.
Thus, we have to repeat the same things we have repeatedly written in our reports: -propaganda prosecutions have been growing quantitatively over the last two years, while its quality remains disappointingly low. The overwhelming majority of sentences are imposed for republication of the videos on social networks, or rather, on one particular network (VKontakte). Quantitative assessment of public exposure, which should be the principal criterion for propaganda-related Criminal Code articles, still never takes place, i.e. the size of the audience for the incriminating statements is not taken into account.. The majority of convicted offenders are not even guilty of creating an “extremist” video or text; they are just ordinary distributors (re-posters), who put the links to those videos or texts on their personal social network pages. Individual comments on social networks, blogs and forums - the number of convictions for which is comparable to the number sentences for the full-length items -- in our opinion, shouldn’t even be the subject for criminal prosecution. The overal impression is that, when prosecuting for propaganda, law enforcement officials mostly inflate their statistics by going after the most easily detectable targets.
The verdict to the administrator of the Slavic North VKontakte group in Murmansk was, in our opinion, the most reasonable of those convictions. Unlike most other offenders, he was not an ordinary re-poster, but a fairly well-known character among the local right-wing radicals. We believe in the need to control the activity of ultra-right groups on the social networks, because these groups are often created specifically for coordinating violent activities. Organizing internet communities, which systematically incite to hatred, is, in our view, a much more serious offense than individual posts or re-posts on the users’ personal pages.
As for convictions for off-line propaganda, they were distributed as follows (12 verdicts total):
- Articles (verdict to B. Stomakhin) – 1 conviction;
- Shouting insults during a conflict – 3 convictions;
- Leaflets – 1 conviction;
- Graffiti – 5 convictions;
- To members and leaders of ultra-right groups for unspecified incidents of propaganda – 2 convictions.
We have no reason to view these verdicts as inappropriate (although we definitely have doubts about some of them), but we find criminal prosecution for the street graffiti to be excessive reaction by the society and the state. In many cases, we agree that specifically criminal prosecution is warranted for xenophobic propaganda in the form of newspaper articles (depending on the circulation), leaflets or incendiary public statements, especially if they occur in the course of an attack.
Criminal Prosecution of Extremist Groups and Banned Organizations
In the first half of 2014, we know of two convictions under the Criminal Code Article 2822 (Organization of an extremist group) against six people in Moscow and Tatarstan. A verdict under Part 1 of Article 2821 (“Organization of an extremist community”) was delivered against one man in Moscow, and, in June 2014, an additional sentence entered into force in the Nizhny Novgorod Region. For the same period in 2013, we know about four sentences against nine persons under Article 2821 and none under Article 2822.
Article 2821 was used during this period against the right groups, which is completely appropriate, because this article is ideally suited for the prosecution of informal groups dedicated to committing various attacks motivated by hatred.
The Meshchansky District Court in Moscow sentenced former KGB officer Valeriy Vdovenko, one of the founders and ideologists of the Northern Brotherhood (Severnoe bratstvo) organization, who had also played an ambiguous role in the history of the Motherland party, to 2.5 years in a penal colony. Other Northern Brotherhood members, such as Anton (the Fly) Mukhachyov, Oleg Troshkin, and Petr Khomyakov, were convicted in 2012 and 2013.
The verdict against the leader of the Skinheads Society- 418 (Obshchestvo britogolovykh-418, OB-418), a neo-Nazi group, who received three years imprisonment in a penal colony, entered into force in Nizhny Novgorod Region in June. The other members of the group were convicted in December 2012.
As for the sentences under Article 2822, one case also pertains to the leader of a far-right organization; in March 2014, the Ostankino District Court in Moscow sentenced Dmitry Demushkin - leader of the Slavic Strength (Slavianskaia sila), banned in 2010 and renamed the Slavic Union (Slavianskii soiuz) - to a fine of 200,000 rubles for continuing the activity of the Slavic Union, but released him from payment due to the statute of limitations. It is unclear why the case was under investigation for such a long period of time, and why other charges were dropped.
The second case pertains to a political Islamist association, directly involved in violence. The Supreme Court of Tatarstan issued a verdict in the case on collaboration with the banned organization Al-Takfir wa al-Hijra. Five people were sentenced to lengthy prison terms under the aggregation with other charges, such as charge under Part 3 of the Criminal Code Article 222 (“Illegal purchase, transfer, sale, storage, transportation or carrying of weapons, committed by an organized group”), Part 3 of Article 223 (“Illegal manufacture of weapons”), and Part 2 paragraph “a” of Article 205 (“Preparing a terrorist act by a group with prior agreement or by an organized group”).
Another noteworthy verdict was issued on April 30, 2014 by the Sverdlovsk Regional Court against Aleksandr Ermakov, yet another participant of the Yekaterinburg NOMP cell; he was sentenced under the Criminal Code Article 30, Article 279 (“Preparation for an armed rebellion”), Article 2051 (“Involving people in terrorist activity”) and Article 222 to 12 years of imprisonment in a penal colony.
The Federal List of Extremist Materials
In 2014, the Federal List of Extremist Materials continued its growth. In the first half of the year, it was updated 20 times and added 161 items, thus growing from 2179 to 2341 positions. However, the list was updated less frequently (during the comparable period in 2013 it added 331 item), so we can hope for some positive changes in this area.
The items added to the list are surprising in their variety. In the first half of 2014 the additions included:
- various materials by modern Russian nationalists, such as xenophobic materials from VKontakte, neo-Nazi websites “Heroes of Will” (Geroi voli), “Arian Liberation Front” (Front ariiskogo osvobozhdeniia), “Storm-News” (Shturm-Novosti), the website of the banned DPNI movement, and books by racist ideologists;
- books of Nazi Germany (including another edition of Mein Kampf, another book by Benito Mussolini, and anti-Semitic children’s book Der Giftpilz (Toadstool, Poganka) by Ernst Hiemer;
- anti-religious materials (including an anti-Christian image from VKontakte, and the texts, calling for “felling crosses”);
- materials of the Orthodox radicals (leaflets and CDs with a speech by Orthodox Priest Fr. Vassily);
- Materials of Jehovah's Witnesses;
- Other religious materials (including a series of neo-pagan films Games of the Gods (Igry bogov) and a visionist video Angelica Zambrano’s Testimonial (Svidetel’stvo Anzheliki Zambrano);
- Muslim materials of various kinds, from militants videos found on the websites “Kavkaz-Center,” habar.org, “Imarat Kavkaz” and the entire“Kavkaz Jihad” website to songs by Chechen bard Timur Mutsurayev and Hizb ut-Tahrir materials;
- Articles and the website of above-mentioned Boris Stomakhin;
- Works of respectable historians (material from the internet blog of Sebastian Stopper, a German historian from the Humboldt University in Berlin);
- Anarchist materials (articles from the Avtonom magazine).
Unfortunately, all the deficiencies of the List, described in our every report, still persist. The size of the list keeps growing; its quality keeps falling, and working with the list has long been impossible.
New items are added haphazardly with numerous errors of all kinds – bibliographic, spelling and grammatical...). Courts keep adding the same materials to the list due to parallel judicial decisions. In the past 6 months three duplicate items were added (Angry Russia (Zlaia Rossiia) video, Russia with a Knife in Her Heart – 2 (Rossiia s nozhom v spine – 2) and “Kavkaz Jihad” website. The total number of duplicates reached 78. The list includes the same books with different imprints and the same texts on different websites – these materials are identical in their content but formally they are different. Some items, such as materials of Jehovah's Witnesses, are recognized as extremist inappropriately. Meanwhile, the inclusion on the list of scholarly articles by Sebastian Stopper on the history of World War II guerillas in the Bryansk Region is puzzling, to say the least.
The ban (and ensuing access restrictions) of such well-known hatred-inciting websites as “Heroes of Will” and “Storm-News” could be considered a useful measure for hate crime prevention. However, we don’t think that isolated sensible acts justify the overall existence of such an ineffective and harmful mechanism.
Other Administrative Measures
Only one organization was added to the Federal List of Extremist Organizations in 2014. The organization in question – the “Faizrakhmanist” group - is a religious group, moreover, it was recognized as extremist inappropriately (the decision was issued in Kazan in February of 2013). We also consider inappropriate the ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses organization in Samara (not yet added to the list). Thus, the Federal List of Extremist Organizations includes 34 organizations (not including the ones recognized as terrorist), whose activities are banned by the court and punishable under the Criminal Code Article 2822.
Regretfully, the media supervision, conducted by the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) is no longer publicly reported. In 2014, Roskomnadzor stopped posting (or, at least, still has not posted) on its website the list of warnings for violations of Article 4 of the Law on Mass Media - including those relating to the “prevention of extremism” - issued to the founders or the editors-in-chief of specific media outlets. We can only note that no newspapers were closed on the anti-extremist grounds in 2014, bbut the closing of newspapers for extremism is a rarity, in any case.
Penalties under the Administrative Code articles were relatively widespread in 2014.
In 2014, we became aware of 18 cases of penalties under the Administrative Code Article 20.3 (“propaganda and public demonstration of Nazi attributes or symbols”), compared to four such cases in the first half of 2013.
These penalties were imposed for the sale (including online stores) of items featuring Nazi symbols (SS stripes from the World War II, lapel pins, daggers, helmets), display of Nazi symbols on the Internet, uploading materials from the Federal List of Extremist Materials onto file-sharing systems and social networks, and demonstration of swastika tattoos. All offenders faced the fines of 1000 or 2000 rubles, except for the 20-year female resident of Nizhnekamsk in the Republic of Tatarstan, who was sentenced to five days of administrative arrest for the publication of a video about Adolf Hitler on VKontakte social network.
We are aware of 10 cases of penalties under the Administrative Code Article 20.29 (“Production and distribution of extremist materials”); there were 22 such decisions in the same period of 2013.
In all cases, the perpetrators were fined 1000-2000 rubles for sharing on social networks materials from the Federal List of Extremist Materials, namely, audio and video recordings of Kolovrat (predominantly), a song by Timur Mutsurayev and Russian wake up! There is a war against you video. It is significant that only a few items from the entire huge list of extremist materials actually attract attention. Once again, it proves the futility of existence of this unwieldy mechanism.
One sentence was imposed under the aggregation of both Administrative Code articles mentioned above. In this case, a resident of Kovrov in the Vladimir Region was fined for sharing song by Kolovrat via VKontakte.
The court decision against a former kindergarten teacher in Chudovo, the Novgorod Region, under Part 1 of Article 5.61 (“Insult”) also merits attention. In April, former teacher publicly shouted xenophobic insults at a seven-year girl for her “non-Slavic appearance.” The court issued her a fine of 1000 rubles.
In the first 6 months of 2014, prosecutors actively fought against extremist content on the Internet, engaging both new and old mechanisms..
As usual, the prosecutor were busy issuing nonsensical motions on impermissibility of extremist activities addressed to school administrators for the lack of content filtering programs on school computers. We know of at least 13 such motions, compared to about 15 during the same period of the previous year. We have to reiterate once again that such methods of combating extremism are, likely, unproductive because the software, installed in Russian schools by the Federal Agency of Education (Rosobrazovanie) in March 2008, is unable to cope with its assigned task, and, in any case, ideal content filters do not exist at all.
But primary field of prosecutorial activity has long been blocking access to the forbidden (or potentially prohibited) materials.
Prosecutors continued to issue motions demanding that local Internet service providers block access to “extremist websites”. Unfortunately, prosecutors and service providers rarely report on the measures taken, so our data is known to be fragmentary. Nevertheless, we know of at least 19 such cases in 2014 (compared to about 12 the year before), not counting clearly inappropriate ones.
A new Internet filtering system, based on the Unified Registry of Banned Sites has been in operation since November 1, 2012. According to the data presented on “Roskomsvoboda” website, the Unified Registry of Banned Sites included 2594 records as of July 4, 2014, but cases of blocking websites for extremism under the Law on the Registry are still rare. According to the available data (only Roskomnadzor itself has complete information) the courts added the following 21 resources to the Registry for extremism in 2014:
- Muslim resources (7), from militant videos to Hizb ut-Tahrir materials;
- Nationalist resources (13), from instructions for manufacturing home-made explosives and the famous Terrorist Cookbook to books, such as Who's Afraid of National Socialism by neo-pagan Dobroslav and Benito Mussolini’s The Doctrine of Fascism;
- Website, fully copying Federal List of Extremist Materials but with actual working links, and its several mirrors;
It is obvious from the above list that restrictions under the Law of Registry are imposed selectively and unsystematically, and some misuse is, obviously, present. For example, we can not agree with blocking of the online library “Gramotei” due to one or several extremist materials found there.
This year saw the emergence of a new (in a legal sense) practice of judicial decisions banning online versions of previously prohibited offline materials without reintroducing them to the Federal List. Until now, the question of the relationship between online and offline versions of the text was resolved the same way as the issue of banning the different editions of the same book - separate courts banned online versions of materials, previously banned before on physical media. In other cases, prosecutors demanded that providers block the online versions through the courts, or, sometimes without going to court, without clear reasons. Now, thanks to the Registry, an interim solution was found, which does not require adding material to the Federal List. A prosecutor's office requests a court to recognize the page (website) as “containing information the dissemination of which is prohibited in the Russian Federation,” which corresponds to the wording of the Law on the Registry, and then forwards the decision to Roskomnadzor, requesting its addition to the Registry. So far, we only know of four such decisions, but we believe that this practice will develop further.
Law on Registry complements Lugovoy Law, which stipulates that websites calling for extremist actions and riots can be blocked without the court’s order at the request of the Attorney General. The Roskomnadzor website developed a separate registry to work with this mechanism.
Under this Act 92 resources were blocked by decision of the General Prosecutor's Office. They include:
- Xenophobic resources of various kinds - 26 (including videos calling for “Manezhka 2.0” and two Ukrainian resources containing explicitly anti-Russian statements);
- Muslim resources - 31 (videos and addresses by Islamic militants, “Ummah-news,” “Chechen-news,” “VDagestan.com,” “Kavkaz Jihad,” “Hanafa,” etc. and their mirrors; 6 “Hizb ut-Tahrir” resources are also included here);
- Non-xenophobic opposition resources - 35 (“Grani,” “Ezhednevyi Zhurnal,” and “Kasparov.ru,” and their mirrors; Alexei Navalny’s blog, and address to the people of Ukraine by Borovoy and Novodvorskaya). Te Attorney General emphasized, however, that she did not use the term “extremism” in this case..
As shown above, there are already quite a few cases of misuse of this registry. The incident with blocking of the opposition websites clearly demonstrated that such extrajudicial blocking, based only on suspicion of “sedition,” inevitably leads to arbitrariness, abuse of power, and an attack on freedom of speech.
Meanwhile, it is impossible to suppress mobilization for participation in the riots by blocking websites, even though this was the principal motive for the adoption of the Lugovoy Law. The story of blocking the videos, which called for gathering Manezhnaya Square in Moscow on May 18 in order to organize the “new Manezhka,” illustrates the point. In this case, as in other similar cases, many distribution channels were involved simultaneously, so that information on the Internet quickly reached its intended audience, and a huge number of these videos remain completely accessible.
 This report was funded by the state support grants awarded by the Institute for Civil Society Issues per Decree No. 115rp of the President of the Russian Federation, issued on March 29, 2013.
 Our data does not include victims of incidents in the republics of the North Caucasus or in Crimea.
 Injured victims can be beaten up or wounded; this term is used for people with any kind of bodily injuries, who survived. Those, who later died from their injuries, are counted as killed.
 Most likely the victims are from Central Asia (since their appearance is often described as “Asian”).
 Young workmen beat up the participants of St. Patrick’s Day flashmob in Irkutsk, mistaking them for gays // Interfax. 2014. 24 March (http://www.interfax.ru/russia/366705).
 The largest number of attacks was recorded in May. It is likely related to the start of the warm season and the long weekend around May 1 and May 9.
 More on Primorye Guerillas in Galina Kozhevnikova, Radical nationalism and efforts to counteract it in the first half of 2010 // SOVA Center 2010. 14 July (www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/publications/2010/07/d19289/).
 For example, on February 18 2014 the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Control and Disciplinary Body obligated CSKA Moscow to play its home European Cup match without spectators as a penalty for racism of the fans.
 The fans, implicated in these incidents, come from the following associations: Company and Central (Rostov-on-Don), Mobile Group и Landskron (the firms of Zenit, St. Peterburg), Sektor Sever (Tula). The fans of Spartak, Dinamo, Torpedo and Lokomotiv were implicated as well.
 More in.: Vera Alperovich, Natalia Yudina, The Ultra-Right on the Streets with a Pro-Democracy Poster in Their Hands or a Knife in Their Pocket: Xenophobia and Radical Nationalism in Russia, and Efforts to Counteract Them in 2012 // SOVA Center. 2013. 15 March (http://www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/publications/2013/03/d26655/).
 Comment by Yegor Kholmogorov repoduced on the page of Maksim Kalinichenko/ M Kalinichenko Facebook page.. 2014. 29 April (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=685230018204300&set=a.491480014245969.1073741829.100001519256202&type=1&relevant_count=1).
 Migrant from Azerbaijan was killed in Moscow. Restrukt movement activists are suspected. // SOVA Center. 2014. 23 June (http://www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/news/racism-nationalism/2014/06/d29770/).
 “Tesak” was extradited to Moscow // SOVA Center. 2014. 28 January (http://www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/news/counteraction/2014/01/d28892/).
 Riot police broke up the Restrukt conference // SOVA Center. 2014. 30 June (http://www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/news/counteraction/2014/06/d29817/).
 More in: Attack on participants of an anti-fascist march in Moscow // SOVA Center. 2014. 20 January (http://www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/news/racism-nationalism/2014/01/d28824/).
 More in Vera Alperovich, .Natalia Yudina, Alexander Verkhovsky, Between Manezhnaya and Bolotnaya: Xenophobia and Radical Nationalism in Russia, and Efforts to Counteract Them in 2011 // SOVA Center SOVA Center. 2012. 24 February (http://www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/publications/2012/02/d23739/Toc316432009).
 See.: Natalia Yudina, Using'a Sledgehammer to Crack a Nut: Review of the Law Enforcement Practice under the Criminal Code Article 280 УК in 2005–2010 // SOVA Center. 2010. 25 october (http://www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/publications/2010/10/d20081/).
 More on this issue in the upcoming article by N. Yudina to be published in a new anthology by SOVA Center.
 See for example: Vera Alperovich, Natalia Yudina, The Ultra-Right Shrugged: Xenophobia and Radical Nationalism in Russia, and Efforts to Counteract Them in 2013 // SOVA Center. 2014. 17 February.
Natalia Yudina, Virtual Anti-Extremism: Peculiarities of enforcing the anti-extremist law on the Internet in Russia (2007–2011) // SOVA Center. 2012. 17 September (http://www.sova-center.ru/racism-xenophobia/publications/2012/09/d25322/).
More on this issue in: Vera Alperovich, .Natalia Yudina, Alexander Verkhovsky, Between Manezhnaya and Bolotnaya…
 We do not know of any sentence imposed for xenophobic vandalism over the past six months under the Criminal Code Articles 214 and 244. Known acts of vandalism were all qualified as propaganda under Article 282. Probably, it happened due to the dual nature of the offenses. For example, a xenophobic vandal was sentenced in Udmurtia on May 26, 2014 to Part 1 of Article 282 to 150 hours of mandatory labor for an extremist inscription on the mosque.
 For more on this organization see: Galina Kozhevnikova, Anton Shekhovtsov et al. Radikal’nyi Russkii Natsionalizm: Struktury, Idei, Litsa, Moscow: SOVA Center, pp. 231-240 [Radical Russian Nationalism: Structure, Ideas, People],
 On verdicts see: Vera Alperovich, Natalia Yudina, The Ultra-Right on the Streets... and Vera Alperovich, Natalia Yudina, The Ultra-Right Shrugged…
 The other “Khabarov’s group” participants had been convicted earlier. Leonid Khabarov himself was released on parole in July 2014. More on this case in: Vera Alperovich, Natalia Yudina, The Ultra-Right on the Streets... and Vera Alperovich, Natalia Yudina, The Ultra-Right Shrugged…
 History Turns into Extremism // SOVA Center. 2014. 25 April (http://www.sova-center.ru/misuse/news/persecution/2014/04/d29418/).
 Its official name is “The list of public and religious associations, and other non-profit organizations, in respect of which the court accepted inured decision on liquidation or ban on the grounds stipulated by the Federal Law "On Countering Extremist Activities".
 Described as “The religious group of “ Faizrakhmanists”, headed byFairzakhman Minnakhmetovich Sattarov and Gumar Gimerkhanovich Ganiev, located at the housing property at 41 Torfianaia Street, Kazan (judgment in-absentia by the Soviet District Court of the Republic of Tatarstan in Kazan of February 21, 2013).
 Inappropriate decisions are not included here and later.
 For more on these mechanisms see: Natalia Yudina, Virtual Anti-Extremism…
 This data is likely based on information informally received from the Internet providers. See: Registry of Banned Websites // Roskomsvoboda (http://reestr.rublacklist.net/).
 The Ministry of Justice website deliberately distorts the hyperlinks.
 Full name “On Amending the Federal Law” On Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information”.
 For details, see: Russian authorities embarked on extensive blocking of disloyal sites // SOVA Center. 2014. March 14 (http://www.sova-center.ru/misuse/news/persecution/2014/03/d29138/).
 According to the report by representative of the Prosecutor General Alexei Zhafyarov at the Presidential Human Rights Council meeting under the of June 20, 2014.