Pro-Kremlin and Oppositional – with the Shield and on It: Xenophobia, Radical Nationalism and Efforts to Counteract them in Russia during the First Half of 2015

Edited by Alexander Verkhovsky


PUBLIC ACTIVITY OF ULTRA-RIGHT GROUPS : Ultra-Right Movements under Pressure : “Spin” on Criminal Incidents : Ultra-Right Public Events : Nationalist Actions Related to the Events in Ukraine : Traditional Nationalist Actions : Other Activities of Nationalist Groups
Counter-action against Radical Nationalism : Criminal Prosecution : For Violence : For Vandalism : For Propaganda : Prosecution of Extremist Groups and Banned Organizations : The Federal List of Extremist Materials : Other Administrative Measures : Mass Media Activity of Roskomnadzor : Administrative Prosecution : Prosecutorial Activity on the Internet




In our 2014 report, we wrote about a crisis in the Russian nationalist movement caused by the events in Ukraine. The crisis only deepened in the first half of 2015 because of a failure to overcome the consequences of the last year’s schisms as well as due to an increasing law enforcement pressure against the oppositional segment of nationalist movement.

This pressure led to drastic reduction in the level of their public activity. Traditional marches and rallies failed to attract even half of their usual audience, activists never managed to put a “spin” on an ethnic conflict, the so-called raids became less frequent, and the government “pressure” became the most popular topic of discussion.

Despite the fact that the confrontation in Ukraine remains one of the most important nationalist issues, the number of actions dedicated to this subject, whether organized by the oppositional nationalist organizations or those loyal to the Kremlin, has decreased significantly from the last year.

Unlike the ultra-right oppositioners, the loyal nationalists actively develop and expand their presence in the regions. In the cases, when their interests intersect with the subjects popular among the opposition, the process of displacing the old players with the new ones (commanding much greater resources), becomes visible. However, the areas of overlap are not too numerous, and pro-government groups are primarily occupied with expressing their support for the political course of the president and fighting against the “fifth column.” The latter is manifested, among other things, in attacks against public actions organized by the liberal opposition.

Regardless of their position with respect to the current political regime, Russian nationalists have become increasingly systematic about organizing combat training courses. Sometimes, this activity is directly related to sending volunteer fighters to the Ukrainian fronts, but there are no doubts that their training is primarily intended for future use in domestic politics.

The authorities cannot be said to ignore this militarization of the nationalist movement. The law enforcement activities have clearly intensified as well.

It is evident, however, that multi-pronged law enforcement pressure is directed specifically against the oppositional segment of the nationalist movement – primarily against those who oppose “Novorossiya,” but against its supporters as well. However, actual combat training courses face no more than occasional hurdles, at least for “Novorossiya” supporters.

The number of convictions for violent crimes remained at the level of the preceding year, breaking its downward trend. These convictions include a number of verdicts against members of well-known neo-Nazi groups, such as Piranhas-74 from Chelyabinsk, Folksshturm from Yekaterinburg and the BORN from Moscow.

Propaganda convictions have, once again, increased in number. As usual, the prosecution mostly targeted social networks users for sharing various xenophobic materials. However, there were several notable convictions of popular right-wing figures in St. Petersburg. Propaganda-related penalties tended to be appropriate – for the most part, the offenders were sentenced to mandatory and correctional labor. Stricter penalties were associated either with additional charges or, characteristically, with the fact that the statements in question pertained to Ukraine.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials grew at twice the previous year’s rate, with its usual number and kinds of errors and redundancies. Despite the fact that a number of materials were taken off the List after court lifting of their bans, it remains a huge and monstrous mechanism, which has long been impossible to work with.

A system of court-ordered access restrictions against “extremist” online content and a system of extra-judicial blocking under “Lugovoy’s Law” have been working actively. The additions to these registers featured the same share of inappropriate decisions and the same randomness, as the Federal List. Practical implementation of “Lugovoy’s Law” has demonstrated that extrajudicial blocking aimed at precluding riot fails to prevent mass online mobilization and inevitably leads to abuse.

Overall, the above-listed measures to combat xenophobic speech appear increasingly chaotic and ineffective. Not only do they generate many undue restrictions on freedom of expression, but also provide no help in distinguishing between prohibited statements and legally allowed ones.

How effective was the government’s counter-action against the developing ultra-right trends?

According to our data, the right-wing criminal activity has been significantly lower in 2015 than in the preceding year. However, we are wary of giving any optimistic forecasts; it is possible that we couldn’t see the true extent of racist violence because of a conscious media silence on the subject of hate crimes: This topic currently does not fit well with the media campaign about the activities of “Ukrainian fascists.” Nevertheless, an actual decline in violence could have occurred due to active prosecution against right-wing radicals in general that also affected the militant wing. If racist violence has really decreased for this or other reasons, then it should be noted as a success.

The pressure against the right-wing opposition groups weakens them, but it shifts the balance in favor of pro-government organizations, rather than weakening Russian nationalism in general.

Finally, the chaotic response to hate propaganda does not help in reducing it. While previously the nationalists used to jump from hate speech to attacks against migrants and other minorities, now they increasingly engage in systematic combat training. This particular activity meets unacceptably little resistance – the fact that, in conjunction with the other circumstances listed above, might lead to a new upswing in violence in the near future.


Criminal Manifestations of Racism and Xenophobia


According to preliminary data, at least 37 people were injured as a result of xenophobic and neo-Nazi violence during the first half of 2015; four of them died. In addition, two people received serious death threats. In the first six months of 2014, 23 people were killed and 86 people injured, one person received death threats. The analysis should take into account the fact that the 2015 data is not complete and will inevitably be amended.[1]

Unfortunately, we face increasing difficulties in our monitoring of racist attacks. First of all, these difficulties are related to increasing lack of information about such incidents, which leaves an impression of a deliberate media blackout on this subject. Apparently, this development has to do with the fact that many media outlets have been uncomfortable reporting about the activities of Russian radical nationalists in the wake of the active media campaign about “Benderites” and “fascists” in Ukraine.

However, it seems that the number of racist attacks indeed experienced a significant drop in the first half of 2015 as a result of continued pressure of authorities against the right-wing radical milieu in general (see below), which, apparently, also affected the militant wing. The ideological shift of 2014, perhaps, engaged a segment of the ultra-right to some extent, re-orienting their hostility away from migrants from the Caucasus and toward the US and Europe. Overall, we cannot confidently name the reason for this drop in racist violence.

Geographical distribution of the violence has not changed much. Incidents were recorded in 10 regions of the country. Moscow (2 dead, 11 injured) and St. Petersburg (2 killed, 7 injured) still top the list. They are followed by the Moscow Region (4 injured) and the Samara Region (3 injured). This picture is almost identical to the one described in our semi-annual report of 2014.

“Ethnic outsiders” traditionally constituted the largest group of victims. In the first six months of 2015, violence affected natives of Central Asia (2 killed, 3 injured), natives of the Caucasus (3 injured), people of unspecified “non-Slavic appearance” (3 injured), and a native of Sudan.

In addition to attacks against lone passers-by on the streets, there were documented cases of gang violence against “Asians” and “Caucasians.” For example, on January 24, 2015, a far-right group attacked a Moscow Regional commuter train on the Kazan line in near the station of Kratovo; 15-20 masked young men entered the car and started beating up people of “non-Slavic appearance.”

Representatives of religious groups constituted the second largest group of victims (9 injured). The vast majority (6 persons) were Jehovah's Witnesses, who have been the target of the official repressive campaign for several years. Other victims included Muslims and a Russian Orthodox priest.

Attacks against representatives of youth subcultures and leftist movements have decreased in number. The only two known cases are an attack against attendees of the punk-metal concert in Tsokol2.0 club in St. Petersburg on February 7 and an attack against punks near Calypso club in Moscow on April 24.

The number of victims among LGBT (5 injured) was almost the same as a year earlier. The majority were attacked by Orthodox activists (in particular, by members of the God's Will (Bozhia Volia) movement headed by Dmitry “Enteo” Tsorionov), when participating in pickets and actions.

Attacks against homeless people also continued in 2015, leaving 2 people dead. They became victims of the Moscow “Cleaners Gang” killing the homeless and people sleeping on park benches.

Traditionally, our statistics also includes people beaten up “by association” for daring to express their disapproval against right-wing radicals and their actions. A passerby was beaten to death on the Silikatnaya station platform (the Kursk line of Moscow Regional commuter trains) for reprimanding a group of young people, who were throwing up their arms in a Nazi salute. In the city of Volzhsky in the Volgograd Region, a woman noticed a group of young men beating up a native of Kazakhstan; she managed to stop the violence, but was hit in the face with a fist.

In 2015, a new kind of political violence by right-wing and pro-government activists has been gaining momentum – violence against those viewed as “national traitors.” We are talking primarily about the attacks by members of the National Liberation Movement (Natsional’no-osvoboditel’noe dvizhenie, NOD) against participants of the January 19 march in memory of murdered lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova in Moscow and Irkutsk and the June attack against participants of the opposition rally “Freedom to Prisoners of May 6th” in Moscow. In addition, the Anti-Maidan[2] supporters in Moscow (after the march held on the anniversary of the Maidan events) attacked a young man on Petrovka street at Haggiss Bar for shouting “Glory to Ukraine!”; another attack took place in Voronezh against participants of the “Spring” march in memory of Boris Nemtsov.

In addition to the previously mentioned activists of NOD, God's Will and Anti-Maidan, there was also some noticeable activity by the SERB group under the leadership of Gosha Tarasevich (Igor Beketov). For example, in late June, he tried to organize an attack against the Sakharov Center, which hosted a charity night in support of prisoners of conscience on June 27. Fortunately, the attack never took place.



Vandals, motivated by religious, ethnic or ideological hatred, were less active than in the preceding year. In the first 6 months of 2015, we recorded at least 20 acts of vandalism in 15 regions of the country (there were 28 such incidents in the comparable period of 2014).[3]

Ideological objects were most frequent targets of vandalism in the past six months (8 cases of vandalism affecting monuments to heroes of the Great Patriotic War, to Lenin and to Narodnaya Volya revolutionaries and 2 incidents relating to government agencies. In addition, vandals targeted sites of new religious movements (3), mosques (3), Jewish sites (2), pagan sites (1) and Orthodox sites (1).

Vandalism was primarily manifested in graffiti (15 cases), broken windows and other destruction (3 cases). However, there were also a number of more dangerous acts – shots were fired at the synagogue in Arkhangelsk, and at a stand with Jehovah's Witnesses literature in Moscow.


Public Activity of Ultra-Right Groups

Public activity of nationalist groups in the first half of 2015 varied greatly depending on the extent of their acceptance of an official political discourse, as it shaped over the past year. As illustrated below, this acceptance determined the relationship of a group with law enforcement agencies, the agenda, chosen for its public events, and its interaction with other representatives of the nationalist political spectrum.

Ultra-Right Movements under Pressure

Criminal and other prosecution against most active leaders of the oppositional nationalist organizations became an important factor to influence the public policy of the ultra-right in the first half of 2015.

This process was set in motion in the second half of 2014 with sentencing of the “Restrukt!” leader Maksim “Tesak” Martsinkevich and the head of the Slavic Strength (Slavianskaia Sila) in St. Petersburg Dmitry “Besheny” Yevtushenko. Leader of the “The Russians” Association Alexander Belov and former leader of the “Russian Runs” Maxim Kalinichenko found themselves under arrest. Criminal cases have been brought against members of the Ataka movement (a “Restrukt!” splinter group) and against Nikolai Bondarik, the St. Petersburg leader of the Russian Sweeps (Russkie zachistki).[4]

This year, the far-right once again has a reason to speak of the pressure from law enforcement agencies. In January, a criminal case was initiated against Igor Stenin, the leader of the Astrakhan branch of “the Russians” Association, for public incitement to extremism (the Criminal Code Article 280 Part 1);[5] in February, Vitaly Shishkin, the head of the “Right-wing for European Development”, was detained and later arrested and charged with inciting national hatred (Article 282 Part 1); [6] Aleksei Kolegov, the head of the Northern Frontier (Rubezh Severa) movement, was arrested in May and accused of infliction of suffering with the use of torture (the Criminal Code Article 117, Part 2).[7] Also in May, five administrators of the “Russians ofAstrakhan” online group, residing in different cities, were subjected to searches in connection with a case related to organizing an extremist community (Article 282.1 of the Criminal Code). [8] In June, criminal case was opened against Dmitry Bobrov, the leader of the National Social Initiative (Natsionalnaya sotsial’naya initsiativa, NSI, previously known as National Socialist Initiative, Natsional- sotsialisticheskaia initsiativa) who became a suspect under Criminal Code Article 282 Part 1.[9]

In the spring and summer, it was reported that three criminal cases had been initiated based on offensive and violence-inciting slogans, shouted by participants of the Russian Marches in Moscow in 2013 and 2014. Initially, the news came out about two cases under Article 282 being initiated in connection with the anti-communist chants by the “unappeasable column” and anti-Islamic chants by “The Russians” Association column used at the Russian march of 2014. Later, in June, there were reports of the third criminal case that was also, to the best of our knowledge, launched in connection with slogans – this time, the ones used at the march of 2013. This case was initiated under the Criminal Code Article 280.[10]

The public part of the investigation has been launched with great fanfare: on March 15, law enforcement officials almost simultaneously raided the homes of four people at once, namely, Dmitry Dyomushkin and Vladimir Yermolaev (leaders of “The Russians” Association), Vladimir Tor (the leader of the National Democratic Party (NDP) and Denis Tiukin (head of “the Russians” Association in Kirov). This process was conducted in an inappropriately harsh manner (in Dyomushkin’s case it turned just plain ugly- the police poured a bottle of water down his pants to simulate incontinence) and in the presence of journalists from NTV television, who, in their video segment, referred to the procedure exclusively as a “special operation”.

Later, in the context of the same criminal cases, but not as demonstratively, searches were conducted at the residences of several other nationalists: Restrukt! activist Artem Trubov, associate of RFO Memory (Pamiat) Vladimir Ratnikov, member of the Moscow branch of “the Russians” Association Vladimir Rostovtsev, and others.[11]

Evidently, the government used prosecution for slogans as the way to demonstrate oppositional nationalists new, harsher rules of the game – any xenophobic slogan during a public action could now become a cause for legal action, even if these slogans had been previously used for a number of years, and, also, it does not matter who, in fact, chants the slogan, since anyone, present (and, certainly, the leaders) could become a witness and be subjected to a “hard” search procedure. This is the first time the nationalists ever faced these conditions on such a scale.

It should be noted that the slogans-related cases were not the only legal innovation of this year intended to block public activity of the ultra-right.

Another example is the administrative case under Article 20.2 of the Administrative Code (“organizing public events without giving a proper notice”) against Oksana (Vyolva) Borisova, N. Bondarik and Aleksandr Amelin of the Russian Renaissance, (Russkoie Vozrozhdeniie), opened in January on the basis of their sharing via social networks calls to attend a people's assembly in Mineralnye Vody. [12] All three were found guilty and fined, despite the facts that none of them had actually participated in the action or had been among the initiators, and that all three had been in other cities at the time of the action. Thus, for the first time, as far as we can tell, advertising an action on the social network was equated to organizing it.

Another judicial novelty was the cancellation of the Russian May Day in Moscow organized by “The Russians” Association. The action had received a permit, which was later canceled based on the fact that D. Dyomushkin, the principal applicant, was under administrative arrest by the scheduled day of the action. The nationalist was incarcerated for 8 days for allegedly swearing at police officers, who detained him and about 40 other representatives of the far-right on April 20 in “Seven” club in Moscow, where the nationalists were supposedly celebrating Hitler's birthday. In any case, for the first time, an applicant’s administrative detention became a reason for the authorities to cancel a previously approved and relatively large ultra-right event in Moscow.

We should also mention the detention of Dyomushkin along with several dozens of participants of knife fight tournaments and training in June and July. It is not very clear whether the law enforcement has been trying to demonstrate their interest in Dyomushkin personally, or whether he simply became the first target, and other (actually quite numerous) strength and martial training classes organized by the ultra-right are next in line.

The pressure against the ultra-right, in conjunction with other factors discussed below, led to a drop in the number of rallies and mass actions, but it has (albeit not dramatically) increased cohesion among the oppositional ultra-right, who were in a complete discord last year over the events in Ukraine. It also increased the mobilization potential of previously exhausted nationalist themes of repression and “right-wing political prisoners.”

The latter trend can be illustrated by the Russian Day of Solidarity in March – a network action that took place under the slogan “For the end to repressions against the Russian movement and repeal of Article 282”. It was initiated by the Russian National Front (Russkiy natsionalnyi front) Coalition, which includes the Great Russia (Velikaya Rossiya) party under the leadership of Andrei Saveliev, Russian People’s Militia (Narodnoe opolcheniie Rossii)[13] under the leadership of Yury Yekishev, the Initiative Group of the Referendum “For Responsible Power” (Za otvetstvennuiu vlast’, IGPR “ZOV”) under the leadership of Kirill Barabash, Russian Imperial Movement (Russkoie imperskoie dvizhenie, RID) under the leadership of Stanislav Vorobyov, and other groups. Preparations for the action took about a month, and it took place in at least 19 regions of the country on March 15. Besides the member organizations of the coalition, the regional rallies were attended by activists from the majority of relatively well-known nationalist movements, including “the Russians” Association, the NDP, the NSI, the Northern Frontier, the Other Russia (Drugaia Rossiya), Vladimir Istarkhov’s Russian Right Party (Rossiiskaia pravaia partiia) and others. Despite the fact that most of the events brought together only a few people (the largest gatherings, in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, were attended by approximately 50 and 70 people respectively), it showed an unexpectedly broad geographic span for a first-time action.

The struggle against the harassment of oppositional nationalists was brought up during other ultra-right actions, such as the Russian May Day. Pickets in defense of A. Belov have been held regularly, primarily by “The Russians” but sometimes with the participation of representatives from other movements – Russian Joint National Alliance (Russkii obyedinennyi natsionalnyi alians, RONA) and the Nation and Freedom (Natsiia i svoboda) committee. The activity of Sergei Baburin’s Russian All-National Union (Rossiiskii obshchenarodnyi Soiuz, ROS) was not particularly noticeable in these six months, but Ivan Mironov, a ROS leader, became one of Belov’s lawyers. Members of the Russian National Front (RNF) coalition supported their own prisoner, Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov; the Other Russia held regular pickets in support of the National Bolshevik Oleg Mironov.[14]

In addition, it is worth noting that a substantial part of the nationalists’ summer was spent preparing for the march on the “Political Prisoner Rights Day” on July 25. The action’s announcements were widely shared via social networks, a number of nationalist organizations joined the coordination efforts and even created a special organizing committee. Such level of interest is a relatively new phenomenon, since, in the few preceding years, activities in connection with this date were largely limited to raising money for imprisoned right-wing radicals.

“Spin” on Criminal Incidents

Attempts to turn criminal incidents involving local residents on one side and migrants on the other into major political events have been a traditional form of ultra-right public activity. Since 2006, when riots in the Karelian town of Kondopoga gained notoriety all over the country, nationalists keep hoping to repeat and entrench that achievement. The year of 2013, when local residents came out under xenophobic slogans in the towns of Udomlya (the Tver Region) and Pugachyov (the Saratov Region) and in the Moscow district of Biryulyovo, was the most fruitful for the far right in this respect. In the following year of 2014, the attempts on spinning criminal incidents were atypically few due to the Ukrainian confrontation dominating the public discourse. Since late last year, the situation began to normalize, and, in the first months of 2015, the nationalists were, once again, ready to focus on this type of activity.

The first such incident, and the one that ended up gaining the most publicity, was the murder of contract soldier Dmitry Sidorenko by migrants from Armenia in Opera Cafe in Mineralnye Vody. A. Amelin, O. Borisova and N. Bondarik attempted to “spin” the incident via social networks.

As it usually happens in such situations, the nationalists immediately declared the conflict to be ethnically based, denying the official version of a common fight. First, O. Borisova reported on social networks that the attackers had been angered by the Slavic “Ratibor” charm on the victim’s neck. Then a different version took hold, according to which the attackers had become aggressive due to Sidorenko’s status as a military man – supposedly, the immigrants from Armenia had chosen him to represent the entire Russian army, accusing him of the murder of the Avetisyan family in Gyumri, committed by a Russian soldier. Apparently, the message that the victim had been wearing a Slavic charm around his neck was intended to mobilize right-wing Rodnover (pagan) activists, who were expected to see the murder victim as “one of their own,” and the reference to the Gyumri events was supposed to start the vendetta process.

As a result, on January 24, an unsanctioned people’s assembly, which attracted about 150 people, took place in the town. The action ended peacefully, even without any mass arrests, despite the fact that its participants attempted twice to block the federal highway.

It is worth noting that, despite the initial incident and the efforts of the far-right, the action had no pronounced nationalist character – its principal slogans were directed not against resident Armenians but against the local authorities and the police, who, according to locals, were corrupt, covered up crime and generally lacked competence.

Having taken stock of the town’s mood, the nationalists changed tactics, started calling Mineralnye Vody “the new Kuschevka” rather than “the new Kondopoga”, and attempted to hold another people’s assembly, scheduled for February 1. However, the action never took place, and the online nationalist resources, which were calling people out to the streets, were blocked.

Another story to achieve relatively wide publicity was the people's assembly in Moscow in connection with the murder of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University student Sergei Kostiuchenko on February 6. “The Russians” Association and Vladimir Basmanov personally actively promoted this action and announced the people's assembly to be held near the MSTU’s dormitory in the Izmailovo District on February 8. Announcements for the event reported that the media and the FSB were carefully concealing the information about the student’s killers, allegedly of Caucasus origin; they also claimed that the girl, who had been the cause of the conflict, found herself under pressure.

Despite the organizers’ efforts the assembly turned out quite peaceful. Only a few dozen people gathered and laid flowers at the murder scene. The attendees included the activists of “the Russians” Association, the Nation and Freedom committee and the RFO “Memory”.

The gatherings in Mineralnye Vody and Moscow ended up being the largest ones in the first six month of 2015, probably because the ultra-right activity level has declined precipitously after the new round of prosecution against nationalists began in the spring.

It is indicative that even such a symbolic ultra-right storyline as the death of soccer fan Ivan Stanin in a fight with men from the Caucasus, which occurred on March 30 in St. Petersburg, failed to mobilize a large number of activists. After the 2010 Manezhnaya Square riots in Moscow, provoked by the death of soccer fan Yegor Sviridov, nationalists have traditionally paid serious attention to such murders, counting on their great mobilization potential. Despite the efforts of several far-right movements of St. Petersburg to promote this story ( the NDP, “the Russians” Association, the Great Russia and others), they only managed to hold a noticeable public event in the end of May, and it was attended by no more than 40 people. The ultra-right activity immediately after the murder was limited to a number of one-person pickets.

All other actions “against ethnic crime” were even more poorly attended and brought together no more than 30 people.


Ultra-Right Public Events

Nationalist Actions Related to the Events in Ukraine

While the confrontation in Ukraine was the central nationalist theme throughout 2014, it was no longer unquestionably dominant in 2015.

A number of movements, such as “the Russians” Association, the RONA, the RFO Memory, the Russian Right Party and others, who initially hadn’t supported the “Russian Spring” have apparently tried to raise the issue as little as possible this year in order to avoid their last year's problems with colleagues from other organizations. As far as we can tell, they made no attempts to bring their supporters out to the streets under “anti-war” slogans. The only item that deserves to be mentioned in this context is the fact that several dozen ultra-right activists from “the Russians” Association and the RONA movement participated in the march in memory of Boris Nemtsov held in Moscow on March 1. [15] Despite its completely different reason, this action also had an implied antiwar agenda.

Some members of the nationalist opposition, who actively supported Novorossiya in 2014, have also been trying to avoid any discussions on the subject. The most striking example is Dmitry Bobrov’s NSI, which announced the majority of its action to be neutral in relation to the Ukrainian events, and prohibited its associates from demonstrating any position on the subject under the threat of being ousted from events. The movement went even further and actually imposed a taboo on the Novorossiya issue even on its Internet resources, focusing instead on domestic topics.

However, the NSI is rather an exception here. Most supporters of the “Russian Spring” from among the oppositional nationalists did not go as far, and the subject of Ukrainian confrontation was still addressed on their websites and in their public social network groups, where, as a rule, they demonstrated their support for DNR and LNR militants, as well as their dissatisfaction with the Russian authorities, who, in their opinion, were continually “betraying Novorossiya” However, their ongoing attention to this topic had virtually no impact on the level of their public activity.

The example of the RNF Coalition formed last year specifically for supporting residents of Ukrainian South-East, has been quite illustrative. A year ago, the coalition consistently demonstrated its position on the issue, promoting “Novorossiya” in every possible way during their public events, but this activity has de-facto stopped this year. Only a few pickets in memory of Aleksei Mozgovoi, the deceased commander of the 4th Territorial Defense Battalion of the LNR People's Militia, were Ukraine-related. Moreover, in some cases even these events were dedicated not only to him, but also to Vladimir Kvachkov, Yuri Budanov and Lev Rokhlin, so they did not focus exclusively on Ukraine. Even when organizing the Russian May Day, the RNF left Novorossiya out of the agenda.

Perhaps the only oppositional nationalist organization, which managed to hold a full-fledged Ukraine-related action this year, was the NDP under the leadership of Konstantin Krylov. They organized several events in different cities on May 2 in memory of those killed in the Odessa Trade Unions House. However, the action took place only in 7 cities and brought together only a few dozen people in each case. Such a low turnout is quite indicative – most likely, the Ukrainian conflict has lost its attraction in the eyes of the nationalists and the NDP lacks connections to a wider audience.

The NDP was not the only organization to come up with an idea of a public rally in memory of the May 2 victims in Odessa. In May, the leaders of the Battle for Donbass (Bitva za Donbass) Coalition declared that they had also been planning a rally on that day in Moscow, but it failed to take place due to the late April raids on the homes of the Coalition’s co-chairs Aleksei Zhivov and Yevgeny Valiaev. We would like to remind that the Battle for Donbass emerged in 2014 as sharing the official government position; formally the coalition included the Right-Conservative Alliance (Pravo-konservativny alians, PKA), the Eurasian Youth Union (Evraziiskii soiuz molodezhi, ESM), National Patriots of Russia, members of the Permanent Council of the National-Patriotic Forces of Russia (Postoianno deistvuiushchee soveshchanie natsionalno-patrioticheskikh sil Rossii, PDS NPSR) coalition, Yegor Prosvirnin’s online project Sputnik and Pogrom and other groups. However, in practice, it looks like, the only members of the coalition, who actually tried to organize public events, were the above-mentioned PKA leaders, Zhivov and Valiaev. Both nationalists, little known outside of the nationalist circles, came to the spotlight after the June 2014 rally of the Battle for Donbass, which brought together several thousand people and received favorable coverage on federal television channels. Apparently, Zhivov and Valiaev were hoping to repeat this success with their action in memory of those killed in Odessa, but received clear signals that their independent presence in this sphere was no longer desirable. This probably explains why the rest of the Battle for Donbass’ public activity was mostly limited to participation in the events organized by their “senior colleagues” (such as the Anti-Maidan), and to promotion of books by the National Diplomacy Foundation, where E. Valiaev is an associate. All the promoted books have revealing names, such as Extremist Movements in Russia and the Ukrainian Crisis, Bloody Crimes of the Banderite Junta, and Ukraine after Euromaidan: Democracy under Fire.

Pro-government nationalist movements – such as the aforementioned Anti-Maidan, the NOD (headed by Yevgeny Fyodorov, a Duma Deputy from the United Russia) or Rodina (Motherland) party of another United Russia Deputy, Alexei Zhuravlyov – were more successful, although not much more active in organizing Ukraine-related public events.

Only two really large actions took place in the period under review: the Anti-Maidan march in Moscow on February 21 under the slogan “One year of the Maidan. We won’t forget! We won’t forgive!” and an all-Russian action of the NOD “From referendum in Crimea to sovereign Russia,” held on the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea on March 18 in several dozen cities and towns. Both events took place with support of local authorities and federal TV channels; Vladimir Putin himself participated in the Moscow rally on Vasilyevsky Spusk, dedicated to the entry of Crimea into Russia. However, the success of public actions of these movements is difficult to assess. For example, the “One Year of the Maidan” march in Moscow involved about 40 thousand people, even according to official data. This number is comparable to the protest rallies attendance in 2012, but the Anti-Maidan commanded far greater resources, including the administrative ones, and their ideology is shared by a much larger segment of the population. Notably, Anti-Maidan and its constituent movements have organized no large-scale events since than; this fact most likely indicates that they are no longer offered any administrative support, and are incapable of organizing anything comparable in scale on their own (or have no intention to organize anything without orders from above).

Except for commemorating these two dates, pro-government nationalist rallies showed as little interest in the subject of “Novorossiya” as the oppositional ultra-right. Last year, the situation was different – the aforementioned movements and their supporters filled the gaps between major events with regular smaller activities in support of residents of the Ukrainian South-East, whereas now everything has been reduced mainly to episodic humanitarian aid shipments and other one-time events. Apparently, these movements came to the conclusion that promoting this subject at this stage is not as politically expedient as it was in 2014. After all, the conflict has been going on for a long time, the topic has lost its novelty for many people, and the desired finale has not become any closer. As a result, much of the pro-government nationalist activity this year was focused on more promising topics, such as the Victory Day celebration, expression of support for the president's policies, opposition to the “influence” of the West, and struggle against the “fifth column,” including violent actions, which pro-government nationalist groups, such as the NOD or the SERB (see above) view as a form of political activity.

The International Russian Conservative Forum, held on March 22 in St. Petersburg, attracted considerable public attention. It was de-facto organized by the St. Petersburg branch of the Motherland party (the presence of the party leadership was announced but later canceled); the event was attended by representatives of European right-wing parties (and set a record for its combination of the number of its Western guests and their extent of radicalism), and by leaders of Russian nationalist groups, both pro-government and oppositional (the NOD, the RID, the NDP, the PKA, and others.) [16] The forum had no visible consequences and can be viewed more as an informal claim of the Motherland party for a role in the Russian foreign policy.

In fact, the only nationalist movement loyal to the Kremlin's policy, which maintained a high level of involvement in Ukrainian-related theme, is the Other Russia party under the leadership of Eduard Limonov; in the first six months of 2015 they regularly held small pickets and rallies in support of “Novorossiya,” practically only other actions of the party were in support of their associates, who had been arrested or under investigation. Activists from the Other Russia have been fighting in the Donbas and have their own Mongoose unit there.

Traditional Nationalist Actions

For many years, the ultra-right have been conducting two major events in the first half of the year, namely the Heroes Day and the Russian May Day. Neither was particularly successful this year.

The Heroes Day, dedicated to the Pskov paratroopers, who died fighting in Chechnya in 2000, was celebrated this year on February 28. As far as we can tell, K. Krylov’s NDP rather atypically acted as an organizer in most cities – this role was usually played by “the Russians” Association, as the successor to the banned Movement Against Illegal Immigration (Dvizhenie protiv nelegalnoi immigratsii, DPNI), which first popularized the action. Evidently, this year the Association decided to distance itself from the Heroes Day both due to the lackluster experience of the last year, and out of fear that glorification of “Russian soldiers” could raise a topic of the Ukrainian confrontation too loaded for “The Russians”. In any case, the NDP failed to return the Heroes Day to its the former scope, and, as in 2014, the action took place only in nine cities, and its best attended event – laying flowers in Saint Petersburg, organized by the NSI rather than the NDP – brought together about 50 people. For comparison, in 2013, the actions took place in at least 20 cities, and the largest of them, in Moscow, attracted about 100 people. Low interest in the Heroes Day is especially apparent, given that 2015 marked the 15th anniversary of the Pskov paratroopers’ death.

The Russian May Day, already mentioned above, began with the scandal involving the detention of D. Dyomushkin and the subsequent withdrawal of the permit for the Moscow march. Notably, breaking with their traditions the nationalists did not declare that they were taking to the streets despite the ban; they undertook no attempts whatsoever to go ahead with the event. As a result, a march organized by the RNF ended up as the only action in Moscow, thus unexpectedly changing its status from an alternative to the main event. The action under the slogan “The will of the nation is nationalization!” proceeded along its usual route from Oktyabrskoe Pole Metro station to Shchukinskaya Metro station and brought together about 170 people, roughly the same number as in 2014 (about 150 people).[17] As expected, this group of nationalists was unable to repeat their success of the previous Russian March, when they doubled their earlier attendance due to their support of “Novorossiya” – a hot topic at that time. The fact that the attendance of their May Day march remained the same as in 2014, showed that, in the course of the year, they were unable to gain any new allies, and failed even to attract the activists from Dyomushkin’s cancelled march.

St. Petersburg also reported the same numbers as in 2013, when a citywide May Day march attracted about 300-350 nationalists. However, if we compare not only the number but also the “quality” of the attendees, significant changes in the character of its ultra-right participants over the last two years become obvious. While approximately 300 people in 2013 represented only the local oppositional ultra-right movements, about half of the participants in 2015 came from pro-government movements, such as the NOD and the Motherland party (approximately 100 and 50 people respectively). Thus, the traditional participants of the march are being gradually replaced (as it previously happened in St. Petersburg with the Russian March).

Traditional ultra-right groups don’t have much to brag about in other Russian cities and towns – the geographic span of the Russian May Day dropped 50 percent in comparison with the preceding year, and, in the municipalities where the events managed to take place, they brought together fewer people.[18]

Apparently, these changes stem from the combination of nationalist disappointment over the failure of the Russian March in the fall, general decline in political activity in the country, and the law enforcement pressure against the nationalists.

Against this background, the near-doubling of the NOD presence at various May Day marches looks rather remarkable – while the movement participated in at least 15 actions in the preceding year, this year the corresponding number was at least 28.

Other Activities of Nationalist Groups

All kinds of “social” agenda actions aimed at demonstrating their constructive social position have become an important direction of nationalist activity in recent years. Raids to combat pedophilia, illegal migrants, shops selling alcohol to minors, and so on were very popular for several years. Starting in late 2013, the number and the aggression levels of such actions have gradually decreased, primarily due to the law enforcement pressure against leaders of the most active raiding groups. Many of these criminal proceedings have been already listed above (N. Bondarik, D. Yevtushenko, D. Bobrov, A. Kolegov and others), and this list is incomplete. In most cases, the prosecution was initiated not in connection with the raiding activity, but, nevertheless, could not fail to affect it.

Perhaps the only kind of raids that continued to develop this year were actions against drinking alcohol and smoking in public places. Such activities are primarily, but not exclusively, the domain of the Sober Yards (Trezvye dvory) movement; such raids were also carried out by Roman Zentsov’s Resistance (Soprotivlenie) movement and the groups formed on the basis of the Russian Runs (Russkiye probezhki). As previously noted, these raids pose the threat of clashes between activists and perceived violators of the public order, particularly given a frequently aggressive stance on both sides.

While the raids by the ultra-right opposition have become less frequent, the ones by pro-government Motherland party have only increased in frequency. In June only, the party activists took part in a raid against the night trade in alcohol, an anti-drug action, a raid to search for illegal migrants and an action to patrol the streets and combat drinking alcohol and smoking in public places.

In contrast to the Motherland, which has no problems with the law enforcement, some ultra-right leaders, for whom raiding used to be their primary activity, have now turned their attention elsewhere – primarily to the activities related to, or at least associated with, the armed conflict in Ukraine.

Uliana Sporykhina, the leader of the Russian Khimki movement, shut down her big raiding project Guestbusters.[19] She is now coordinating certain basic military training courses, actively advertised on the Russian Khimki social network page.

Igor Mangushev’s movement the Bright Russia (Svetlaia Rus), which used to be very active in its searches for illegal immigrant residences, is now busy working with the E.N.O.T.Corp group. Officially, E.N.O.T.Corp members, who include many activists of the Bright Russia, are engaged in collection and delivery of humanitarian aid to the South-East of Ukraine; unofficially they are taking part in the hostilities. [20]

Another leader of the “raiding” movement, former head of the Shield of Moscow (Shchit Moskvy) Aleksei Khudyakov has also switched to the “Ukrainian” theme. The purpose of his new organization, the Russian Choice (Russkiy vybor), is a regular gathering and shipment of humanitarian aid to Donbass. It is not clear, whether this is a purely humanitarian project or, similarly to E.N.O.T.Corp, a military one as well.

Of course, the Russian Khimki is not the only organization to promote its military training courses – the aforementioned E.N.O.T.Corp, the Russian Choice and other ultra-right movements do the same. Such courses are usually organized on the basis of various combat sports clubs collaborating with nationalists. One of the most famous examples – the St. Petersburg Reserve (Rezerv) club under the leadership of Denis Gariev, actively advertised on the RID, the NSI and other ultra-right websites. The club cooperates with the RID “Imperial Legion” movement, which, in turn, formed the eponymous unit that is currently a part of the DNR armed forces. S. Vorobyov, the leader of the RID, said in an interview that two groups of volunteers per month, on average, are being sent to this unit, and their training is handled by Reserve.[21] The club accepts not only those ready to go fight in Ukraine, but, as far as we know, anyone wishing to obtain combat skills. Thus, the RID is able to recruit both volunteers for “Novorossiya” and new supporters for themselves.

As noted in our previous reports, last year, the number of permanent clubs, affiliated with nationalists and engaged in providing combat training to anyone interested, increased dramatically. Increasingly, instead of their usual irregular camp and training announcements, the websites of the ultra-right movements encourage their audience to join clubs that teach knife and unarmed combat, combat tactics in urban or forest environment, skills in shooting and handling of weapons, etc. Some of these training bases openly declare that they are preparing soldiers to be sent to Ukraine (as Reserve does), the others are just trying to keep up with the trend and use the increased demand of the movement for “the combat games.” We believe that such a drastic militarization of an already extremely aggressive ultra-right environment is very worrying.

Ultra-right groups that are unwilling or unable to join the creation and promotion of ongoing combat training courses, conduct more traditional small gatherings and outdoor combat exercise, trying to keep up with the spirit of increased militarism. The number of such events has shown steady growth since last year. Purely sporting events continue as well – we see a lot of small mixed martial arts and soccer competitions, and, most notably, “Russian Bench Press” (Russkiy zhim – weightlifting from a prone position)[22] and all sorts of jogging, “walks,” and “swims”. Such sporting events are organized by major nationalist groups, regional activist groups or ultra-right clothing brands.

Nationalists compensated for their diminishing raiding and political activity not only by combat sport events, but also by undertaking purely social projects without any aggressive components. Such actions were popular in 2009 and 2010, when the law enforcement started active prosecution against far-right groups, and gangs of right-wing radicals were being detained with unprecedented frequency. Later on, partially due to reduced pressure and partially once nationalists adapted to the new realities, the number of peaceful social nationalist actions dropped significantly. Now, right-wing radical groups can, once again, be observed taking up actions such as blood donations, collecting aid for the poor, holding Subbotniks (volunteer work on Saturdays), etc.


Counter-action against Radical Nationalism

Criminal Prosecution

For Violence

Convictions for violence, in which courts recognized the hate motive, remained at the same level as a year earlier. During the period under review, at least 11 sentences were delivered in 10 regions with 27 persons convicted. (In the comparable period of 2014 there were 10 sentences in 11 regions; 28 people were convicted.)

Practically all the articles of the Criminal Code, applicable to violent crimes and containing the hate motive as an aggravating circumstance, were utilized to qualify penalties for racist violence. Article 282 (“inciting ethnic hatred”) appeared in three sentences. It was used for individual episodes of the far-right propaganda in two cases. The third sentence, handed down to a Nazi skinhead from the Yekaterinburg Folksshturm group, used Paragraph “a” of Article 282 Part 2 (“inciting ethnic hatred, committed with violence or threat of violence”). According to the 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” of June 28, 2011,[23] it is appropriate to apply Article 282 to violent crimes, if they are aimed at inciting hatred in the third parties, for example, through a public and demonstrative ideologically motivated attack. Indeed, the case in question featured statements, shouted during the attack.


Penalties for violent crime were distributed as follows:

  • 2 people were sentenced to life in prison;
  • 3 people – to prison term of 24 years;
  • 1 person – up to 20 years;
  • 2 people – 10 to 15 years;
  • 6 people – 5 to 10 years;
  • 3 people – up to 5 years;
  • 4 people – up to 3 years;
  • 1 person – up to 1 year;
  • 3 people were sentenced to a fine;
  • 4 people were released from punishment due to reconciliation of the parties;
  • 1 person was acquitted.

As you can see, most of the defendants were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, indicating an improved quality of applying the law (the preceding year saw more punishments not related to loss of liberty). These penalties were imposed for serious violent attacks, including the ones with the use of weapons. The offenders sent to prison included members of the neo-Nazi group Piranha-74 from Chelyabinsk and a Folksshturm member from Yekaterinburg. Members of the neo-Nazi Military Organization of Russian Nationalists (Boevaia organizatsiia russkikh natsionalistov, BORN) Vyacheslav Isaev and Maxim Baklagin[24] received the life sentences, another member of the group, Mikhail Volkov, was sentenced to 24 years behind bars. Yury Tikhomirov was acquitted in the same case (in 2012, he was sentenced[25] to ten years in prison for the murder of anti-fascist Ilya Dzhaparidze). Ilya Goryachev, the alleged founder and ideologist of the group and the leader of the Russian Image (Russkii obraz) organization, is currently on trial by the Moscow City Court.


For Vandalism

We know of 3 sentences against four people handed down for ethno-religious or neo-Nazi vandalism (no such sentences were delivered in the comparable period of 2014) in the Krasnodar Region and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

One of the vandals, who desecrated the memorial in honor of the Great Patriotic War heroes in Krymsk, was sentenced to 1 year and 6 months in a penal colony, and another one – to 1 year imprisonment with a subsequent probation period of 1 year and 6 months. In the Krasnodar Region, a court sentenced a vandal to 4 years of imprisonment in a penal colony for desecrating the military memorial in the village of Anastasievskaya. Such a verdict for xenophobic graffiti was issued because the sentence combined paragraph “B” of Article 244 Part 2 (“The desecration of gravestones committed against burial places of those, who participated in the struggle against fascism”) with Article 282 Part 1, Article 222 Part 1 (“Illegal possession of ammunition”), and Article 222.1 Part 1 (“Illegal possession of explosives”). A man, who opened fire in the city cathedral in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in 2014, killing two people and wounding seven, was sentenced to 24 years in a penal colony. His verdict used Article 214 (“Vandalism”) in aggregation with a number of other articles, including Article 105 (“Murder of two or more persons in connection with their performance of professional duties, committed by a generally dangerous method, with especial cruelty, motivated by hatred”).

For Propaganda

The trend of accelerated growth of propaganda-related prosecution, when compared to the prosecutions for all the other kinds of extremist crime combined, continued in 2015. In the first half of 2015, there were at least 85 convictions for xenophobic propaganda against 92 people in 43 regions of the country. In the comparable period of 2014, there were 66 sentences against 68 persons in 39 regions (we do not include the sentences, which we view as inappropriate, but they weren’t numerous).

As usual, the majority of the sentences (77 our of 85) utilized Article 282. The verdict was based exclusively on Article 282 in 66 cases. One sentence used Article 280 (“Public calls for extremist activity”) only. Six sentences combined Articles 282 and 280 of the Criminal Code. Besides Article 280, Article 282 could also be aggregated with a number other articles, including charges for violence or vandalism.

Five sentences utilized Article 205.2 (“public incitement to terrorist activities”). In four cases, it was used in relation to radical Islamist propaganda. Events in Ukraine introduced new practices for using this article, as reflected in the sentence against a 22-year-old resident of Nizhny Novgorod (the citizen of Belarus) handed down in April in Nizhny Novgorod for posting on social network page on the Internet “photographs and recordings, in which he expressed his feeling related to the events in Ukraine, encouraged readers to “Kill the Moskals!” and “return Crimea to Ukraine”. We doubt the appropriateness of this verdict.[26] The punishment – two years of settlement colony – seems excessive as well.


The sentences were distributed as follows:

  • 15 people received custodial sentences;
  • 18 received suspended sentences without any additional sanctions;
  • 11 were sentenced to a fine;
  • 16 – to correctional labor;
  • 25 – to mandatory labor;
  • 1 – to restriction of freedom;
  • 1 received a suspended correctional labor sentence;
  • 2 people faced educational measures;
  • 2 people were sent for compulsory treatment;
  • 1 was released due to statute of limitations.

The share of suspended sentences increased in comparison to the preceding year and amounted to 19% (18 of the 92 convicts), which causes some concern – according to our long-term observations, such sentences have proven to be ineffective. Among others, a suspended sentence was issued to [the] known Petersburg nationalist Nikolai Bondarik for his complicity in preparing provocations on Kurban Bayram (Eid al-Adha). [27] In April, the Kalininsky District Court of St. Petersburg found him guilty under the Criminal Code Article 282 Part 1 and delivered a suspended sentence of 1.5 years. However, as an additional punishment, the nationalist received 3 years of probation which includes bans on the Internet use during this period (probably refers to posting statements on the Internet – ed.), on making statements in the media and on participation in any, even permitted, events and marches.

Most of the offenders faced other penalties not involving loss of liberty, such as correctional and mandatory labor, educational activities and fines. We see it as a positive trend.

Quite a significant number of the convicted offenders (15 persons) were sentenced to prison terms. Some of the sentences were imposed in aggregation with other charges, including violent ones (the already mentioned verdicts against Folksshturm, Piranha-74, and the shooter in the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk cathedral), took past crimes into account or pertained to people already serving prior sentences for criminal activity.

Two custodial sentences cause strong doubts – one was handed down in Nizhny Novgorod (the sentence for anti-Russian propaganda in the context of Ukrainian events, mentioned above) and the other one was issued in Krasnodar for publications on the social network VKontakte. We also view as overly harsh the new sentence to Boris Stomakhin, the editor of the Radikalnaya politika [Radical Politics] newsletter. On April 20, 2015, the Moscow Military District Court sentenced him under the Criminal Code Article 205.2 (“Public incitement to terrorism or public justification of terrorism”) to 7 years in a penal colony for publishing the article “Or Blow Up a Couple of Railway Stations!,” written in jail and posted in his blog on the portal At his sentencing, the court took into account his prior penalties in similar cases. [28] We view this sentence as excessive, because it was a punishment “for words only.” In addition, the readership of Stomakhin’s blog is very small.


The vast majority of propaganda convictions were issued for materials posted online. In the first six months of 2015, 75 out of 85 total cases belonged to this category, continuing the three-year upward trend in the share of convictions “for the Internet.”

The materials were posted on the following Internet resources, monitored by the law enforcement:

  • social networks – 65 (VKontakte – 36, unspecified social networks – 29);
  • YouTube – 1;
  • blogs – 1;
  • Internet forums – 2;
  • unspecified Internet resources – 6.


The materials in question had the following genre distribution (various genres could be present on the same Internet resource):

  • videos – 36;
  • images (photos or drawings) – 23;
  • audio (songs) – 8;
  • texts (including re-publication of books) – 14;
  • comments on social networks or forums – 10;
  • xenophobic incitement to murder of a particular person – 1;
  • creating neo-Nazi online groups – 3;
  • unspecified – 6.

As demonstrated by the above data, the quality of the propaganda-related prosecution remained unchanged from 2014. Once again, almost half of the verdicts pertained to sharing videos via social networks (mainly VKontakte). We have repeatedly discussed the numerous shortcomings of this kind of law enforcement.[29] Most importantly, the publicity criterion – the primary one for the “propaganda-related” Criminal Code articles – has never been clarified and is not taken into account during the sentencing. Only two reports (both from prosecutors in the Vladimir Region) mention the number of user visits and the accessibility level of the incriminating material. Meanwhile, the offenders, convicted in the past six months, obviously, were very dissimilar in their respective audience sizes.

However, it is worth noting that, in 2015, propaganda convictions impacted not only little-known Internet users, but also some popular characters of the ultra-right movement. With regard to propaganda on the Internet, the most notable verdict is the one to St. Petersburg nationalist Dmitry “Beshenyi” [Mad] Yevtushenko – from the Slavic Strength (Slavianskaia Sila) and the Russian Sweeps – under Article 282 and Article 212 (“incitement to mass riots”) for publishing on VKontakte the “incitement to riots and incitement to hatred against persons of non-Slavic ethnicity or natives of the Caucasus, and against government representatives.” The court sentenced him to 3 months of restrictions on freedom.[30]

We view the verdicts related to creating ultra-right groups on VKontakte as appropriate. In our opinion, ultra-right groups on social networks need to be kept under control, since they are often created specifically in order to coordinate 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.

Unfortunately, the number of these appropriate sentences is depressingly small; they often get lost among the growing stream of standard-issue verdicts for sharing videos via social networks.


As for prosecution against off-line propaganda, 10 relevant convictions were distributed as follows:

  • publication of books – 1;
  • preparing a provocation (the verdict against N. Bondarik) – 1;
  • shouts in the course of an attack – 3;
  • leaflets – 1;
  • graffiti – 2;
  • sermons – 1;
  • writing articles – 1.

In general, we are ready to accept as justified sentences for xenophobic provocations, propaganda in the form of a sermon (depending on the size of the audience), shouts during attacks, distribution of leaflets and writing articles (depending on the size of a print run). In this respect, we would like to point out a fine imposed on March 10, 2015 in Moscow on Sergei Nikolaev, the director of the Algorithm publishing house, and Alexander Kolpakidi, the editor-in-chief of the same publishing house, for publishing books authored by Benito Mussolini and Joseph Goebbels. The books were sold in major Moscow bookstores, such as Biblio-Globus, Molodaya Gvardiya, Moskva, and others.

Regretfully, the practice of restrictions on practicing a profession have seen almost no development; in this case, for example, it could have been applied against the managers of the publishing house, which have specialized in publishing this kind of literature for years.


Prosecution of Extremist Groups and Banned Organizations

In the first six months of 2015, prosecutions under Article 282.1 (“organizing an extremist community”) were slightly less active than in the previous year. We are aware of only one verdict in this category. A resident of Nizhny Novgorod received a suspended sentence of 2.5 years in June for an attempt to create a local ultra-right group. (Clearly inappropriate sentences and sentences against members of Hizb ut-Tahrir are not considered here). There were two convictions during the comparable period of the preceding year.

Another verdict worth mentioning is the suspended five-year sentence issued in the Vladimir Region against the 34-year-old resident of the city of Kolchugino under Article 150 Part 4 of the Criminal Code (“involvement of a minor in the commission of an offense motivated by ethnic and religious hatred”). The man, “being a supporter of the nationalist ideology, started to impose his views on his 13-year-old son and his peers, inciting to violence against persons of non-Slavic origin or followers of other religions”. He brought the teens to the dormitory residence of Tajik nationals and beat two of the foreigners with a metal bat, and damaged the car of one more citizen of Tajikistan.[31] This man was de-facto acting as a leader of a temporary group he created.


For the first six months of 2015, the Federal List of Extremist Organizations, published on the Ministry of Justice[32] website, grew to include six additional organizations.

In the first instance, in January 2015, five Ukrainian right-wing organizations were added to the list: the Right Sector, Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian People's Self-Defense (Ukrayinska natsionalna asambleia – Ukrayinska narodna samooborona, UNA-UNSO), the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukrainskaia povstancheskaia armiia, UPA), the Brotherhood (Bratstvo) and Stepan Bandera All-Ukrainian Organization ″Tryzub″[33] (all were recognized as extremist by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in November 2014). The activities of these Ukrainian organizations, of course, include elements that meet the definition of extremist activity, so the ban is justified. However, any significant presence of members of these organizations in Russia is unlikely. It is obvious that they were banned for the sake of making a political declaration.

In the second case, in March, a religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Samara, recognized as extremist by the Samara Regional Court on May 29, 2014, was added to the list. We view this decision, as well as the use of anti-extremist legislation against Jehovah's Witnesses in general, as inappropriate.

Thus, the Federal List of Extremist Organizations now includes 42 organizations whose activities are legally prohibited; the continuation of these activities is punishable under Article 282.2.

The list of organizations recognized as terrorist (published on the FSB website),[34] was also updated in the past six months. The list came to include an Autonomous Militant Terrorist Organization (Avtonomnaia boevaia terroristicheskaia organizatsiia, ABTO) (the first right-wing group that was banned as a terrorist organization, and not just as extremist),[35] a branch of the Right Sector in the Republic of Crimea,[36] the Islamic State (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham), [37], Jabhat en-Nusra (the Victory Front, a.k.a Jabhat an-Nusrah li-Ahli ash-Sham). [38]

The List of Terrorist Organizations will inevitably continue to grow. In February, the Moscow City Court recognized People's Militia in the Name of Minin and Pozharsky, Narodnoe opolcheniie imeni Minina i Pozharskogo, NOMP) as a terrorist organization and banned its activities in Russia.[39]


The Federal List of Extremist Materials

Update of the Federal List of Extremist Materials continued in 2015. It was updated 26 times in the first 6 months of 2015, adding 305 items and growing from 2562 to 2867 items. Thus, the list is updated at twice the previous rate (it added 161 items in the comparable period of 2014).

The additions to the list are still diverse. For the first six months of 2015 the list came to include the following:

• various materials produced by modern Russian nationalists – Nazi skinheads videos found on VKontakte, songs by the bands Shtandart, Vlok, Luten’ and Korrozia Metalla, the book Bibliya Skinheda II [The Skinhead Bible II] by Nikola Korolyov, books by ideologists of racism (including the ones published by the Russkaya Pravda [the Russian Truth] publishing house), racist neo-pagan materials (books by Dobroslav, a document by the Spiritual and Tribal Sovereign Rus' (Dukhovno-rodovaia derzhava Rus’)), and so on;

  • materials of other nationalists (Tatar, Chuvash);
  • materials of Jehovah's Witnesses;
  • other religious materials;
  • Muslim materials of various kinds, from videos, produced by militants, to Hizb ut-Tahrir materials and works of Said Nursi;
  • articles by Boris Stomakhin;
  • materials in support of Ukraine (Alexander Byvshev’s poem “To Ukrainian Patriots”)
  • Various anti-government materials, inciting to riots.

Unfortunately, all the deficiencies of the Federal List, covered in our earlier periodical reports, remain unchanged. [40] Its size continues to grow,[41] while its quality continues to fall. It is worth noting, however, that, in the period under review, about 70 titles of Muslim literature, mainly from the notorious “Orenburg list”[42] were removed from the List.

Despite this one-time clean-up effort, this vast and convoluted instrument has been unusable for a long time. New items are added haphazardly with numerous bibliographic, grammatical and spelling errors. Occasionally, items are described in a way that makes them impossible to identify. Courts keep adding materials to the list over and over; for example, No. 2742 fully duplicates No. 2725. The same materials, recognized as extremist by several court decisions, are added as separate entries. Total number of such duplicates adds up to 90. Courts keep adding to the list the same books in different editions, or the same online materials, published on different sites – their content is identical, but formally they are different and have to be considered separately. Some items have been recognized as extremist inappropriately – materials of Jehovah's Witnesses, books by Said Nursi, and many others.


Other Administrative Measures

Mass Media Activity of Roskomnadzor

Unfortunately, the information on media supervision, conducted by the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) in 2015 remains closed to public. Roskomnadzor has stopped posting the list of warnings for violations of Article 4 of the Law on Mass Media on its website – including those relating to the “prevention of extremism” and issued to the founders or the editors-in-chief of specific media outlets. Nevertheless, we have information about warnings issued to the websites, Business Online, and Mediazona for publishing an interview with Alexei Navalny given upon leaving the Zamoskvoretsky District Court after the verdict in the Yves Rocher case; a warning was issued to the online media outlet for illustrations used to accompany the article “Siberian Social Activists Protested the Orthodox Church Monopoly on Morality and Spirituality.” The newspapers RBK-Daily and Vek, the VK Press news agency, the media outlet InterNovosti.Ru, and the websites Lenizdat.Ru,,, and, as well as the web portals Respublika,, and received warnings for publishing the Prophet Muhammad cartoons from French magazine Charlie Hebdo. We view all these warnings as inappropriate (the situation is similar to the one we described in our report a year earlier). [43]

Administrative Prosecution

Penalties under anti-extremist articles of the Administrative Code were more numerous in 2015 than in the preceding year.

We know of 29 cases under Article 20.3 of the Administrative Code (“propaganda or public demonstration of Nazi paraphernalia or symbols”). A year ago, we reported 18 such cases. Most of these verdicts were issued in connection with publication of Nazi symbols on social networks, displaying the swastika tattoos, or selling items with the Third Reich insignia in stores.[44] This year we also observed cases of penalties levied for posting the Right Sector symbols on social network.

In general, all the offenders were fined one thousand to three thousand rubles. In one case, a Neryungri (Yakutia) resident faced administrative arrest for publishing materials with Nazi symbols on Vkontakte.

We know of 44 decisions under Article 20.29 of the Administrative Code (“mass distribution of extremist materials, as well as production or storage with intent to distribute”). A year ago, we wrote about 43 such decisions. In all cases, the perpetrators were fined 1-2.5 thousand rubles for sharing on social networks some (mostly unspecified) materials from the Federal List of Extremist Materials. [45]

Another notable case involves an administrative warning under Article 5.35 of the Administrative Code (“Failure of Parents of Minors to Carry Out Their Obligations as Regards the Maintenance and Upbringing of the Minors”), issued to the mother of a secondary school student, who posted several pictures with the swastika and other Nazi symbols on VKontakte. The Commission on Juvenile Affairs and Protection of Their Rights decided against levying any fines on the teen’s mother and limited the penalty to a warning.

The decisions, covered above, are the ones that we view as legitimate; meanwhile, the number of inappropriate cases under these Administrative Code Articles increased in comparison to the preceding year. We know of at least 31 cases of inappropriate punishment under Article 20.29, and 15 cases under the Article 20.3. Thus, in the first six months of 2015, there were 46 inappropriate decisions vs. 73 appropriate ones.


Prosecutorial Activity on the Internet

Prosecutors continue to actively combat extremist content on the Internet, utilizing both new and old mechanisms. Blocking access to restricted (or allegedly otherwise dangerous) materials has become the main field of prosecutorial activity on the Internet.

The old blocking methods in the form of motions issued to local Internet service providers with demands for restrictions on access to “extremist sites” gradually recede into the past. We know of at least 10 such cases in 2015 (compared to about 48 in the first 6 months of 2014), not including any obviously inappropriate ones. Unfortunately, prosecutors and service providers rarely report on the measures taken, so our data is known to be fragmentary.

Meanwhile, a new system of Internet filtering, based on the Unified Register of Banned Websites[46] (in operation since November 1, 2012) has been developing rapidly. According to the data on the Roskomsvoboda website,[47] preliminary estimates put the number of such resources at no less than 216 (the List has 10,364 entries in total) as of 12 July 2015. Based on the data available to us (only Roskomnadzor has the complete information) 65 resources were added there for “extremism” by court decisions in 2015. These include:

  • xenophobic material by modern Russian nationalists (including Nazi skinhead videos, songs of the band Kolovrat, the books Udar Russkikh Bogov [Strike of the Russian Gods] by V. Istarkhov and “Skiny. Rus Probuzhdaetsia [Skinheads. Russia Wakes Up] by D. Nesterov;
  • materials by the classic fascist and neo-fascist authors (including books by Hitler);
  • materials of Muslim militants and other calls for violence by political Islamists;
  • other Muslim materials (books of Said Nursi, materials of banned organizations, including Hizb ut-Tahrir and others);
  • websites of banned Ukrainian organizations (Brotherhood and the Right Sector);
  • Ukrainian media materials (including articles against the Russian annexation of Crimea);
  • Various anti-government materials inciting to riots;
  • Unidentified materials.

The number of materials in the register will definitely increase in the nearest future – we know of at least 35 prosecutorial requests to courts, which seek to recognize the presence of information “forbidden for dissemination in the Russian Federation” on a number of web pages and to add the resources to the register; we do not expect many of these claims to be rejected.

One gets the feeling that Register-based restrictions are implemented just as haphazardly as additions to the Federal List. Restrictions against videos by ultra-right or Islamist militants coexist with blocking of perfectly harmless resources, which have clearly been recognized as extremist inappropriately (i.e. Nursi's books). An observer gets the general feeling that URLs to be blocked are selected completely at random – the number of potentially problematic resources is enormous, and restricting all of them is clearly impossible.

The Law on the Register is supplemented by “Lugovoy’s law,”[48] which provides for extrajudicial blocking of websites that contain incitement to extremist actions or riots, at the request of the Prosecutor General, but without trial. The Roskomnadzor website created a separate register to work with this mechanism.

By decision of the Prosecutor General's Office, 53 resources were blocked under this law in 2015 (total number of items blocked at the time of writing is 209). They include:

  • xenophobic material by modern Russian nationalists (including calls for the people's assembly in Mineralnye Vody and information about nationalist actions on the May Day);
  • Ukrainian anti-Russian materials;
  • websites of banned Ukrainian organizations (i.e. the UNA-UNSO website);
  • materials produced by Tatar nationalists;
  • materials produced by Muslim militants and other calls for violence by political Islamists;
  • other Muslim materials (books by Said Nursi, materials of banned organizations, including Hizb ut-Tahrir and others);
  • miscellaneous anti-government materials inciting to riots.

The register already includes many cases of unjustified restrictions. For example, at the request of the Prosecutor General, Roskomnadzor added to it the site of the Consumer Rights Protection Society (Obshchestvo zashchity prav potrebitelei, OZPP) for the Instruction Sheet for Russian Tourists Going on Vacation in Crimea, found on the OZPP site, which, allegedly, contained “incitement to extremist activity.” In particular, incitement was found in a recommendation to comply with Ukrainian legislation and to get permission to visit the Crimea from the Border Service of Ukraine, since, according to the international law, Crimea is an occupied territory. We view the actions of the Prosecutor General and Roskomnadzor as inappropriate, because the Instruction Sheet contains no incitement to extremist activity.[49]

The register added only a small number of pages blocked because they had posted appeals to attend certain events (“people's assemblies”). Meanwhile, the primary argument for adopting “Lugovoy’s Law” was that this mechanism was ostensibly necessary for suppressing mobilization for possible riots. In practice, however, a situational mass mobilization is impossible to suppress by blocking; this notion was, once again, illustrated by an attempt to block messages that called for attending nationalist actions on the May Day. Such cases involved many dissemination channels at once, so all the necessary information quickly reached the intended target audience; the planned actions successfully took place, and some of these posts still remain accessible online.


Prosecutorial motions on impermissibility of extremist activity, addressed to school administrations due to lack of content filtering on school computers, have been gradually tapering off. We only know of 6 such cases (compared to 24 cases in the first half of 2014). We are not completely sure about the reasons for this change – either prosecutors are busy with other matters and no longer inspect schools, or school administrators chose to install the filtering software, issued by Rosobrazovanie in March 2008, in order in order to avoid further trouble, despite the fact that these filters cannot cope with the task, and, in any case, ideal content filters do not exist.

[1] Our similar report of the previous year mentioned 74 people, 13 of whom died, and one death threat. For more details see: Vera Alperovich, Natalia Yudina. Ukraine Upsets the Nationalist Apple-Cart: Xenophobia, Radical Nationalism and Efforts to Counteract It in Russia during the First Half of 2014 // SOVA Center 2014. 14 July (

[2] Anti-Maidan movement is spearheaded by Dmitry Sablin (Deputy Chairman of the Combat Brotherhood (Boevoe bratstvo) Russia-wide public organization of war veterans, and member of Federation Council), Night Wolves biker gang leader Alexander “the Surgeon” Zaldostanov, and co-chairman of the Great Fatherland Party (Partiia Velikoie Otechestvo, PVO) Nikolai Starikov.

[3] Our half-year report of 2014 listed 24 vandalized objects, so, regretfully, this number will, most likely, increase.

[4] More in: Vera Alperovich, Natalia Yudina. Calm Before the Storm? Xenophobia and Radical Nationalism in Russia, and Efforts to Counteract Them in Russia in 2014 // SOVA Center, 2015. 26 March (

[5] Astrakhan: the leader of local branch of “the Russians” has been detained // SOVA Center, 2015. 22 January (

[6] Nationalist Vitaly Shishkin detained and later arrested in Moscow // SOVA Center, 2015. 16 February (

[7] For more information see: The Northern Frontier leader is accused of infliction of suffering with the use of torture // SOVA Center, 2015. 1 June (

[8] An administrator of the Russian Astrakhan online group subjected to a search // SOVA Center, 2015. 25 May (

[9] Criminal case opened against the NSI leader D. Bobrov // SOVA Center, 2015. 23 June (

[10] Moscow: a new criminal case opened in connection with slogans used at the Russian March // SOVA Center, 2015. 17 June (

[11] Moscow: Search conducted in a residence of “the Russians” activist // SOVA Center, 2015. 3 June (

[12] Sharing information about an assembly as violating order during a public event // SOVA Center, 2015. 2 February (

[13] Russian People’s Militia is a successor to the People's Militia in the Name of Minin and Pozharsky, Narodnoe opolcheniie imeni Minina i Pozharskogo, NOMP) banned by the decision of the Moscow City Court of February 18, 2015.

[14] An activist of the Other Russia, arrested in October 2014 for disrupting the concert of Andrei Makarevich. He is charged with Article 213 Part 2 of the Criminal Code ("hooliganism") and paragraph “a” of Article 116 Part " 2 ("beating").

[15] Police detained nationalists during the march in memory of Boris Nemtsov \ // SOVA Center, 2015. 2 March (

[16] For more details see: The International Russian Conservative Forum was held in St. Petersburg. More // SOVA Center, 2015. 23 March (

[17] For more details see: The Russian May Day-2015 in Moscow // SOVA Center, 2015. 1 May (

[18] For more details see: The Russian May Day-2015 in the Country’s Regions // SOVA Center, 2015. 5 May (

[19] Russian Khimki used to be part of “the Russians” Association, but left in 2014 due to differences with the Moscow leadership of the Association in their respective positions on the Ukrainian conflict.

[20] Post-war activities // Kommersant. 2015. 23 March (

[21] Interview with RID coordinator Stanislav Vorobyov // 2015. 21 May (

[22] For more on Russian Bench Press see: Vera Alperovich, Natalia Yudina. Calm Before the Storm...

[23] For more details see: For more details see: Vera Alperovich, Alexander Verkhovsky, Natalia Yudina, Between Manezhnaya and Bolotnaya... // SOVA Center 2012. 21 February (

[24] The Verdict in the BORN case has been issued.// SOVA Center, 2015. 21 April (

[25] The Verdict in the anti-fascist Ilya Dzhaparidze Murder Case was delivered in Moscow // SOVA Center 2012. 18 April (

[26] The report about the verdict does not specify the exact nature of the incriminating comments and incitement The context of the phrase “to kill the Moskals!" is also unclear. The rest of the materials, listed in the report, do not, in our opinion, merit a criminal prosecution.

[27] Two St. Petersburg residents claimed to have been victims of a xenophobic attack, but later confessed to staging.

[28] This is Stomakhin’s third criminal case. On April 22, the Butyrskiy District Court in Moscow sentenced him to 6.5 years in prison under the Criminal Code Article 280 Part 1, Article 282 part 1, Article 205.2 part 1, Article 30 and Article 205.2 for publishing articles on the Internet. Earlier, the Butyrskiy District Court in Moscow sentenced Stomakhin to 5 years of imprisonment under the Criminal Code Article 282 part 1 and Article 280 Part 2 in 2006. For more details see: Vera Alperovich, Natalia Yudina. Calm Before the Storm…

[29] Ibid.

[30] This is not the first criminal case for the nationalist. On September 6, 2014, the Petrogradsky District Court of St. Petersburg found Dmitry Yevtushenko guilty under Part 1 of Article 282 and sentenced him to 160 hours of mandatory laborfor posting materials on Vkontakte. Earlier, he was under arrest under hooliganism charges for participating in the Russian Sweeps.

[31] On charges related to an attack against the health and property of foreign nationals, the court dismissed the prosecution of non-rehabilitating grounds due to reconciliation of the parties.

[32] The official name: is "The list of public and religious associations and other nonprofit organizations, in respect of which the court accepted an inured decision on liquidation or prohibition of activity on the grounds stipulated by the Federal Law "On Countering Extremist Activity”.

[33] For more details see: Viacheslav Likhachev, The Right Sector and Others: the Radical Nationalists and Ukrainian Political Crisis of Late 2013 – Early 2014 // Rossiya – Ne Ukraina: Sovremennye aktsenty natsionalisma [Russia Is Not Ukraine: Contemporary accents of nationalism]: Moscow: SOVA Center, 2014.. pp. 230–275.

[34]The official name: is: Unified federal list of organizations, including foreign and international organizations recognized as terrorist in accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation

[35] Recognized as terrorist by the decision of the Moscow City Court of June 28, 2013; the decision entered into force on November 27, 2013.

For more details see: Vera Alperovich, Natalia Yudina. The State Duma Directed Right Radicals Toward New Goals: Xenophobia, Radical Nationalism and Efforts to Counteract It in Russia during the First Half of 2013 // SOVA Center 2013. 12 July (

[36] Recognized as terrorist by the decision of the Moscow City Court of December 17, 2014; the decision entered into force on December 30, 2014.

[37] Recognized as terrorist by the decision of the Supreme Court of Russia of December 29, 2014; the decision entered into force on February 13, 2015.

[38] Recognized as terrorist by the decision of the Supreme Court of Russia of December 29, 2014; the decision entered into force on February 13, 2015.

[39] NOMP was founded by Vladimir Kvachkov in 2009. A number of materials by this organization were recognized as extremist. The leader of the organization and members of the Yekaterinburg NOMP cells, so-called Khabarov's group, were sentenced to imprisonment, de-facto for preparing a revolt.

Unfortunately, the evidence base for the decision to recognize NOMP as a terrorist organization is unknown to us. Kvachkov was convicted for his real attempt at armed rebellion (Article 30 Part 3 Article 279 of the Criminal Code). NOMP members possessed weapons; they conducted military training. However, far from all activists were involved in these activities. The Law on Combating Terrorism leaves open the question of whether to treat preparations for rebellion as terrorism. So we can say that certain ground for the decision to recognize it as a terrorist organization could conceivably exist, but we are not aware of them. However, we have no reason to regard the court's decision as inappropriate. For more details see: Court declared NOMP a terrorist organization. // SOVA Center, 2015. 18 February (

[40] See, for example: Vera Alperovich, Natalia Yudina. Calm Before the Storm…

[41] At the time of writing, the List is 2887 positions long.

[42] In March 2014, the Leninsky District Court banned virtually the entire library that was seized during the search of the resident of Orenburg Asylzhan Kelmuhambetov, convicted in June 2011 for the creation of a Nurcular cell. The Orenburg Regional Court lifted the ban on some religious materials on February 27, 2015. See: That's Enough Joking: the ban is lifted for 50 out of 68 religious materials deemed extremist in Orenburg. // SOVA Center, 2015. 27 February (

[43] Maria Kravchenko, Inappropriate enforcement of anti-extremist legislation in Russia in 2014 // SOVA Center, 2015. 30 March (

[44] Including cases of penalties against antique dealers. In our opinion, Article 20.3 of the Administrative Code should be used, first and foremost, not against antique dealers, but against manufacturers of modern items with Nazi and neo-Nazi symbols (buttons, clothes, copies of weapons, and so on) and distributors of such products. Nevertheless, we believe that the antique dealers should refrain from exhibiting products with Nazi symbols in public.

[45] These materials include songs by Timur Mutsurayev, Alexander Kharchikov, and the bands Kolovrat, Tsiklon B, Mongol Shuudan, White Wars, and Cyborg; videos “White Car -2”, "Skinheads, “Appeal to the Russians by the Slavic Union Fighters”, “ the Slavic Union”, and " Fatima’s Letter to Mujahideen"; the books Mein Kampf , Azbuka Domashnego Terrorizma [the ABC of Domestic Terrorism], and Sady Pravednykh [Gardens of the righteous].

[46] See the updated list: “Extremist Resources” in the Unified Register of Banned Websites // SOVA Center, (

[47] See: Register of Banned Websites // Roskomsvoboda (

[48] See the updated list: ”Resources in the Registry of Websites Blocked in Accordance with Lugovoy’s Law // SOVA Center, (

[49] For more details see: “Instruction Sheet for Russian Tourists” // SOVA Center, 2015. 23 June (