Friday, February 28, 2014

Russian Neo-Nazis React to Events in Ukraine

By Richard Arnold

While the exact role of Ukrainian far-right groups in removing President Viktor Yanukovych is disputed, they were clearly present among the protestors and well represented by, amongst other organizations, Pravyi Sector (Right Sector). The role of the ultra-radicals is one of the variables on which the stability of Russia’s most important neighbor now rests.

Like other Russians, the Russian far-right is monitoring the events in Ukraine closely. They are even sending their own reporters to Maidan in an attempt to produce “news without censorship” ( The overall tone of articles concerning Ukraine does not suggest a clear indication in favor of either Ukrainian nationalists or the government. An article reporting on Viktor Yanukovych’s February 27 appeal to “loyalists” in Crimea openly criticizes him ( On the other hand, an article regarding the mobilization in Crimea argues that people should not be deceived by claims that the “Russians have all won” and calls on Russians in Crimea to oppose “the new government” under which “the [Crimean] Tatars are the complete masters” ( What unites these seemingly disparate articles, however, is anti-Putinism and populism. The prospect of a Maidan-like protest movement in Moscow sponsored by extremist Russian ethno-nationalists has to frighten the Russian government.

Illustrative of this threat, a January 26 article titled “How to carry out a people’s assembly” and sent from Ukraine provides instructions on mobilizing ethnic Russians in a similar manner to events at Kondopoga in 2006 and Biryulyevo in 2013 ( The article offers advice to protesters on how to avoid detention, including directions to record the protests and post the videos on the internet. It ends with a warning that Vladimir Putin’s regime has passed a law increasing fines on attendees of unsanctioned meetings to 10,000 rubles ($278) and 100,000 rubles ($2,782) on the organizers of such meetings. While the far right has been trying to hold such rallies frequently, the events in Ukraine cannot fail to have provided them with inspiration.

Indeed, March 1 will see a series of Neo-Nazi rallies held across Russia. The main one will be in Moscow, in part organized by Slavyansky Soyuz (Slavic Union). The “Day of Heroes,” which these events will be commemorating, is not an official holiday but rather honors an action by Russian troops in the second Chechen War (August 1999–May 2000). The organizers of the rally suggest such symbolic actions as “carrying flowers to the tombs of dead soldiers” and singing songs to praise the “heroes of your city” ( The Moscow march will begin at 2:00 p.m. local time, and there are separate marches planned in Ryazan, Volgograd, Nizhny Novogorod, St. Petersburg and Khabarovsk (, on February 26). The Vkontakte (popular Russian social network) page of the rally showed that, as of February 25, over 5,000 people had promised to attend and another 10,000 were listed as “maybe” ( There may also be people who turn up spontaneously and do not register their participation ahead of time. In the current atmosphere, even a patriotic rally has the potential to scare the Kremlin. With the ability of ethno-nationalist ideas to bring masses of people out into the streets, the warning of Emil Pain that the ethno-nationalists are, indeed, the main opposition to the Kremlin seems like it is being borne out (

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