Bulletin 2:21 (2008)
- THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN
A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
Vol. 2, No. 21(26), 2008
Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas Umland
I NEWS: 10 - 30 JUNE 2008
II SURVEYS, ANALYSES, COMMENTS
III PRIMARY SOURCES
IV ANNOTATIONS OF RECENT PUBLICATIONS
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I NEWS: 10 - 30 JUNE 2008
Stabbed In Ethnic Brawl.
The Moscow Times, June 10, 2008
A brawl between ethnic Russians and natives of the Caucasus in
northeastern Moscow left three people hospitalized with head injuries
and stab wounds, RIA-Novosti reported Monday.
Fifteen to 20 people armed with knives and metal pipes clashed at
around 11:30 p.m. Sunday on Anadyrsky Proyezd, near the Babushkinskaya
metro station, the report said, citing the police.
A police official told RIA-Novosti that it was unclear whether race
played a role in the fight.
It was the third report of brawls between ethnic Russians and natives
of the Caucasus in Moscow in less than a week.
A spokeswoman for the city police's northeastern district branch
confirmed that the incident took place but said the fight broke out
after passers-by yelled at a drunk man for urinating on a kiosk.
"The man was rebuked, but he didn't listen," she said. "This was the
Only five people were involved in the scuffle, and no one was
hospitalized, she said. She declined to give further details, citing
the ongoing investigation.
Some 30 to 40 people of non-Slavic appearance attacked two young
people of Slavic appearance on Manezh Square around 9 p.m. Thursday,
the Novy Region news agency reported.
Twenty young people were involved in the fight between Russians and
natives of the Caucasus in southeast Moscow on June 3, Interfax reported.
Chief rabbi in Russia cites major problems
JTA, June 12, 2008
A chief rabbi of Russia said that nationalism and compulsory Christian
education are major problems in the country.
Berel Lazar, one of two chief rabbis in Russia, in an interview with
the German newspaper Deutsche Welle said he believes that nationalist
groups -- skinheads, anti-immigration groups, far-right ideologues --
were not as numerous as some estimate, but that such groups would grow
in force if no one fights against them.
"The consequences can be devastating," said Lazar, the head of the
Chabad-led Federation of Jewish Communities. "With these forces we
first get aggressive slogans, then actions, then murder."
He said the authorities understand the nature of these groups but
tend to marginalize them.
Lazar also protested the release of a textbook by the pro- Kremlin
youth group Nashi that educates students about the country's roots in
Russian Orthodox Christian culture.
"This is a serious problem," he said. "There shouldn't be a
preference for one religion by the government."
Forcing students in Russian schools to study Orthodoxy would make
Jews and other religions feel like second-class citizens, he said, and
that would create widespread antipathy and injustice.
Racist Attack in Lipetsk
FSU Monitor, June 16, 2008
A group of youths attacked two dark-skinned foreigners and a Russian
woman in Lipetsk, Russia while screaming racist insults, according to
a June 16, 2008 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. The
youths, one of whom had a swastika tattoo on his shoulder, then forced
their victims (a citizen of Algeria and a citizen of Cameroon) to
withdraw money from an ATM, but they managed to flag down a police
patrol, and the officers detained their assailants. So far the young
extremists only face robbery charges, but hate crimes charges may
later be tacked on.
Investigation of the Neo-Nazi Video with a Murder
SOVA Center, June 16, 2008
In mid-July 2008, the Investigative Committee of the General
Prosecutor's Office of Russia admitted that the double murder on the
video distributed in August 2007 really took place.
When the video came out, the investigators of the Ministry of
Interior stated the video was a fake, so no real investigation was
started. On August 15, 2007, Victor Milkov, who posted on the Internet
the video which he received by e-mail from Germany, was arrested and
later sentenced to 1 year of compulsory labor for violation of the
article 282 of the Criminal Code (incitement of hatred).
In January 2008, Artur Umadanov from Dagestan recognized his brother
Shamil Umadanov on the video. He also recognized the t-shirt and the
jacket on the murdered man. Shamil Umadanov had gone to Moscow to work
in summer 2007 and stopped calling his relatives in the middle of
August. Relatives reported the fact of recognition to the police, but
their complaint was not registered until they sent a letter to
According to sources of the Russian magazine The New Times, four
young men, members of the violent neo-nazi National Socialist Society,
have been recently detained as suspects. Reportedly, this fact has not
been admitted by the authorities, because one of the suspects is a son
of a high official at one of the law enforcement bodies.
Youths Attack Central Asian Migrants in Moscow
FSU Monitor, June 16, 2008
A group of youths stormed a dormitory in Moscow and attacked several
migrant caretakers, sending five of them to the hospital, according to
a June 16, 2008 report by the Sova Analytical-Information Center. The
extent of the injuries to the victims, three men and two women, all
from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, is not known, but one remains in
serious condition as a result of the June 14 attack. Police detained
three suspects and charged them with "hooliganism."
Russian 'political clown' wants to fire up side at Euro 2008
RIA Novosti, June 17, 2008
MOSCOW, June 17 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian ultranationalist politician
notorious for, among other things, brawls with fellow MPs has asked
the country's soccer chief for a chance to fire up the national team
ahead of their vital Euro 2008 tie on Wednesday.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the current vice-speaker of Russia's lower
house of parliament, caused international alarm when his Liberal
Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) came first in Russia's 1993
parliamentary elections on the back of a confrontational and fiercely
nationalist campaign. Although his party's share of the votes has gone
down since then, it is still the third largest in the State Duma.
Zhirinovsky has, in his time, threatened to seize Alaska from the
United States, to launch a nuclear strike on Japan, and to destroy the
Baltic states. Many political and social experts have suggested that
Zhirinovsky represents and gives vent to the darker side of the
Russian character, providing at times a vital outlet for frustrations
and prejudices. General Alexander Lebed, the man credited with ending
the first Chechen War, once famously described Zhirinovsky as "God's
"The team needs a special psychological boost, a powerful emotional
charge that will ensure their desire for victory," the LDPR press
office quoted Zhirinovsky as saying on Tuesday.
"That is why I am asking the minister for sport and the president of
the Russian Football Union, Vitaly Mutko, to give me the opportunity
to meet with our team and have a talk with the guys before they take
the field in Innsbruck," Zhirinovsky went on.
Russia, after losing their first game at Euro 2008 4-1 to Spain, beat
Greece 1-0 on Saturday. Nothing less than victory over Sweden on June
18 will see them into the play-off stages of the competition for the
first time since the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991.
The Russian Football Union has yet to comment on Zhirinovsky's offer
to give a pep talk.
Russians more tolerant, but still disapproving of mass immigration -poll
Interfax, June 17, 2008
MOSCOW. June 17 (Interfax) - Sociologists note improved
international relations in Russia despite mass immigration still
being mainly disapproved of in the country.
The poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Study Center
(VTsIOM) on May 31 - June 1 in 46 Russian regions shows that
the percentage of respondents pointing to increased
international relations has nearly halved compared to 2005, from 41%
The growing tensions are most felt in the Northwestern
federal district (49%), and less in the Urals - (14%),
sociologists told Interfax on Tuesday.
More than a quarter (27%) of respondents now believe that
these relations have become more tolerant, whereas in 2005 this
opinion was voiced by 17% respondents.
Nevertheless, sociologists acknowledge that the mass immigration
is widely seen as a negative factor in Russia.
Two thirds (68%) of respondents said a great number of people
coming from other countries is a negative thing. This opinion
is particularly widespread in Moscow and St. Petersburg (75%). Over
years the number of Russians who believe this to be a positive
thing reduced from 21% to 15%, while the number of those who could
not answer has increased (from 10% to 17%).
Gay Moscovites send new complaint against Luzhkov's ban to Strasbourg
Interfax, June 17, 2008
Moscow, June 17, Interfax - Organizers of the Moscow gay pride parade
have sent a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in
Starsbourg, asking to compel the Russian authorities to pay
compensation of 30,000 euro for denying them the right to stage an
event in June 2007.
"The complaint that we sent to the European Court on Monday is only
the first one resulting from a series of banned pickets by sexual
minorities in Moscow other than gay pride parades. Currently, other
similar complaints are being prepared and are almost ready," Moscow
gay pride parade organizer Nikolay Alexeyev told the Interfax-Religion.
The submitted complaint refers to a picket, which sexual minorities
expected to stage outside the building of the European Commission's
Moscow office in June 2007. Picketers planned to demand that Moscow
Mayor Yury Luzhkov be banned from traveling to the European Union
Moscow authorities have "effectively banned any public event for gays
and lesbians in the capital city, which is inconsistent both with the
Russian laws and the European Convention on Human Rights," Alexeyev said.
The Strasbourg court already has two complaints against the Moscow
authorities' decisions to ban gay pride parades in May 2006 and in May
2007, he said.
Police arrest skinheads suspected of 20 murders
Russia Today, June 18, 2008
Police have arrested a group of Moscow skinheads suspected of killing
at least 20 people from ethnic minorities.
People from Central Asia and the Caucasus were the victims in a
series of nationalist attacks being investigated.
If convicted, the group of six, aged 17-20, could be sentenced to
life, a police source said.
The source added that they are from Moscow or the Moscow region and
regard themselves as skinheads.
The young people were reportedly communicating at nationalist sites
on the internet, where they arranged details of their attacks on
Metal bars, baseball bats and knives were used as murder weapons on
the victims the group are accused of killing.
Police also seized ultranationalist literature promoting race hate
from the suspects' apartments.
The police have reportedly managed to trace the group after they
solved a murder of an Uzbek couple committed on May 7.
Russia's Interfax news agency says more than 200 racially-motivated
attacks have been committed in Russia in 2008.
Police Investigating Racist Attack in Rostov
FSU Monitor, June 18, 2008
Police in Rostov-na-Donu, Russia are investigating a racist attack
that took place there last month, according to a June 18, 2008 report
by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. On May 16, a group of
youths attacked a boy near Prospekt Selmash while screaming "beat the
non-Russians!" and other racist abuse. The boy suffered a fractured
collarbone. Police have identified but so far apparently not detained
four suspected neo-Nazis and plan to charge them with a hate crime.
Antisemitic Attack in Volzhsky, Russia
FSU Monitor, June 18, 2008
Two young men attacked a Jew in a Volzhsky, Russia (Volgograd region)
cafe, according to a June 18, 2008 report by the web site Jewish.ru.
Oleg Polonksy, age 40, went to the cafe to eat dinner, but when he
placed his keys on the table, the two men sitting nearby noticed that
he had a Star of David key chain. They approached him and asked, "are
you a Jew?" to which he answered in the affirmative and was savagely
beaten. Mr. Polonsky is currently in the hospital recovering from his
injuries. The head of the local Jewish community has appealed to the
city's mayor to oversee the investigation of the crime. Police so far
have not detained any suspects.
Russian Law Enforcement Officials Confirm Neo-Nazi Execution Video
FSU Monitor, June 18, 2008
The Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office has
confirmed the authenticity of a grisly neo-Nazi execution video posted
on the Internet last year, according to a June 16, 2008 article in the
independent weekly "Novoe Vremya." An investigator, Vladimir Markin,
also confirmed an earlier story that one of the victims--a resident of
Dagestan--has been identified. According to the article, the execution
was carried out by a group calling itself the National-Socialist
Society of Obninsk, a city in the Kaluga region. The two migrants were
reportedly abducted from Kaluga and taken to a forested region, where
they were shot and beheaded on camera. Their bodies have still not
"Novoe Vremya" added unconfirmed information from police sources
indicating that four suspects are already in custody, but one of them
is allegedly the son of a high-ranking police official who is
reportedly hindering the investigation.
Blimp Hunts Immigrants
The Moscow Times/Reuters, June 20, 2008
Police in the Perm region are using an airship to hunt for illegal
workers from other former Soviet republics, the state channel Vesti-24
Video footage showed an unmanned airship, equipped with a video
camera able to identify a face from a distance of 5 kilometers,
hovering over private cottages near the city of Perm.
"Now there's no escape from this all-seeing eye," the news announcer
The video showed a group of migrants, identified by a policeman as
from Tajikistan, building a private house.
"Literally just an hour after this cat-and-mouse game, police and
migration officers detained some 70 illegal migrants. Some of them are
sure to be expelled from Russia," the announcer said.
Moscow Police Arrest Neo-Nazi Gang Members.
FSU Monitor, June 20, 2008
Moscow police have arrested nine neo-Nazis in connection with a series
of racist attacks, according to a June 20, 2008 report by the national
daily Komsomolskaya Pravda. The suspects are charged with nine attacks
on migrants between August and October 2007, one of which led to the
death of the victim. The neo-Nazis allegedly filmed the attacks and
posted the clips on the Internet. It is unclear what charges the
MOSCOW POLICE NAB NEO-NAZIS SUSPECTED IN 20 MURDERS
Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's Weekly Newsletter, Volume 8, Number 25, June
Moscow police detained six neo-Nazis in connection with the murder of
15 individuals belonging to ethnic minorities in Moscow and an
additional five in the Moscow Region, according to a June 17 report by
RIA Novosti news agency The suspects face hate crimes murder charges
which could lead to life sentences if convicted. According to law
enforcement sources, the young extremists were planning a series of
terrorist attacks, using explosives in open-air market places where
migrant traders congregate. Last month, another group of far-right
nationalists were sentenced to life in prison for such an attack on
the Cherkizov market, which took the lives of 14 people.
Police got on the trail of the six suspects while investigating the
murder of an Uzbek couple last month in Moscow. According to their
findings, the suspects killed their victims with knives and baseball
bats, and they communicated with other neo-Nazis over the Internet.
Police are searching for other suspects in connection with the case.
ETHNIC HATRED RISES
Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's Weekly Newsletter, Volume 8, Number 25, June
Negative attitudes toward immigrants keep growing in intensity, the
All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) found in its
survey in late May. The number of the Russians who do not mind
immigrants at all has gone down from 21% two years ago to 15% these
days. Moreover, the level of negative attitude remains permanently
high: 68-69%. The situation was found "particularly problematic" in
Moscow and St. Petersburg where the average sympathy/antipathy ratio
is gauged at 16% to 75%.
VTsIOM is now state-owned. Its director, Vladimir Fyodorov, defended
the authorities for taking measures to lessen ethnic tensions. He
cited the trials and convictions of those guilty of ethnic clashes in
Kondopoga, the restrictions on the number of foreigners allowed to
work at marketplaces (a blatantly racist and largely unenforced law
passed in the wake of the Kondopoga riot), and the liquidation of the
openly chauvinist Motherland party.
In presenting the polls on June 17, "Vedomosti" quoted Yuri Vdovin, a
human rights activist from St. Petersburg. Vdovin ascribes the growth
of the negative attitude toward immigrants to a state policy centered
on "pseudo-patriotic doctrines." He said, "Here in St. Petersburg, all
ethnic hatred crimes are treated as banal hooliganism."
RUSSIANS SEE THEIR HISTORY AS THE GREATEST SOURCE OF PRIDE
Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's Weekly Newsletter, Volume 8, Number 25, June
Asked by the polling firm Bashkirova & Partners in mid-May what makes
them most proud about Russia, the great majority of respondents listed
Russia's history (83.8%), culture (77.4%), and scientific achievements
(75%). A hefty 60.7% pointed to the Russian armed forces but only
55.6% to their country's influence in world affairs.
The same question elicited two other findings indicating skepticism of
the Kremlin's boasts. Only 40.5% of respondents expressed pride in
their country's economic achievements and just 37% felt the same way
about the state of democracy in Russia.
Attempts To Build Places Of Worship Trigger Russians' Protests
Itar-Tass, June 20, 2008
MOSCOW, June 20 (Itar-Tass) -- In Russia, a country where according to
different sources, 50 to 90 percent of the population regard
themselves as believers, and where some men of science point to what
they describe as the risk of society's clericalization, attempts at
building new churches and other sites of worship may trigger strong
protests once in a while - either out of ideological considerations
('Down with the Krishnaites and other sects!') or for very trivial,
down-to-earth reasons. For instance, if a Christian church or a mosque
is about to emerge in what is now a public garden or a children's
Most such conflicts are resolved in favor of the Russian Orthodox
Church, which, as a rule has the backing of local authorities.
At the beginning of June a group of activists representing Moscow and
the Moscow Region lodged a protest with the Moscow authorities against
the construction of a Krishna Consciousness Center in the village of
Vereskino, in Moscow's north. In accordance with the Moscow
government's resolution of April 2, 2007 the Moscow Society for
Krishna Consciousness obtained permission to develop and gather a set
of urban construction and pre-project documents for building a
religious cult facility on an area of two hectares. The Krishnaite
center is to consist of a temple accommodating 800, a planetarium,
several museums, an exhibition hall, a library, a health-building
facility, and a restaurant and cafeteria.
"This heathen temple is very alien to us, Orthodox Christians. In
India it might be appropriate, but we do not need it at all," the
spokesman for the group of activists, Andrei Yeremin, is quoted by the
daily Gazeta as saying. He warned that if the Krishnaite Center is
built after all, protests will continue, but only legal means will be
"We have the support of not only Orthodox Christians, but also of the
Muslim community members. They agreed to sign the message, too,"
In Sergiyev Posad, a city some 100 kilometers northeast of Moscow,
the Union of Orthodox Christians has come out against plans for
building a mosque.
In several other Russian cities local people have staged protests
against plans for building Orthodox churches, but for very
down-to-earth, not religious reasons.
On the site chosen for a church to be built in St. Petersburg in
honor of Blessed St. Xenia people from the nearby apartment buildings
turned out for rally last week to present their arguments against.
Firstly, they said, Blessed Xenia lived at a different place,
secondly, the local tiny garden and children's playground may be
ruined, and thirdly, the construction site may harm the basements of
their not very new and not very sturdy buildings. They also refer to a
law banning any construction work in public gardens.
In September last year the Orthodox community in the town of Troitsk,
near Moscow, declared the intention to build a church in the woods
nearby. Many local people showed little enthusiasm, though, because
too many trees would have to be axed. The mayor and the town's
legislature decided to call a referendum. The prosecutor's office
protested the decision as inciting religious discord. The poll was
In April, a crowd in Rostov-on-Don demonstrated in the park next to
the Don Technical University, on the site chosen for building an
"If the priest manages to find at least one person, who is for
cutting the trees, destroying the park and building a church, may he
show that person to us," said one of the protesters.
Three years ago a decision was made to build a church in the
Solnechny district of Irkutsk. By itself the decision would draw no
objections. If only the place for the construction site were chosen
elsewhere, and not in the local dweller's favorite birch-tree grove.
"We had had no idea where the church would emerge," say local people.
"But one day we saw a machine drilling an exploration well near our
birch-trees. This is the sole place in the whole neighborhood where we
can take our kids for a walk. There are no cars and the scenery is so
In Arkhangelsk, the regional administration's office has been
picketed on sporadic occasions since April. The activists argue that
budget money is about to be spent on building places of worship and
Russia is sliding towards 'New Middle Ages'.
Of late, there was much talk, not without an involvement of the local
authorities, about what might speed up the construction of a local
cathedral. Some suspect budget money might be used for the purpose.
Under the Russian Constitution and other laws any buildings of
worship can be put up only with privately and voluntarily donated funds.
Most such conflicts, says the daily Noviye Izvestia, are resolved in
favor of the Russian Orthodox Church, which as some suspect, may be
using its proximity to the authorities.
"Russian city dwellers are not against the emergence of new churches
as such. But they are certain that the roads to churches must not lie
through places that have long been their habitual environment.
Destruction of a grove or public garden is a tragedy no smaller than
destruction of a church," the daily says.
There are no official statistics as to how many believers there are
in Russia. As for sociological surveys, estimates vary.
The Public Opinion fund in April polled 1,500 men and women of age in
46 regions of Russia to find out their attitude to religion.
Fifty nine percent said they were Orthodox Christians, 2 percent
belong to other Christian confessions, 6 percent said they were
Muslims, 2 percent profess other faiths, 5 percent were unable to name
their religion, and 26 percent are atheists.
Of those who consider themselves as Orthodox Christians a mere ten
percent go to church at least once a month.
Murders of foreigners in Russia rising - 69 in 2008 so far
Monsters and Critics, June 21, 2008
Moscow - The number of foreigners murdered in xenophobic attacks in
Russia since the beginning of the year has risen to 69 this year
already, higher than in all of 2007, human rights activists reported
'Since January, there have been 152 racist attacks, in which 69
people were killed and at least 170 were injured,' the director of the
Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, Alexander Brod, was quoted by the
Interfax news agency as saying.
People from the central Asian republics such as Kyrgyzstan,
Uzbekistan and Tajikistan tend to be the main victims of the attacks
Human rights organizations as well as the leadership of the former
Soviet republics have long complained that the Russian government has
done too little to solve the problem.
Centres of racist violence have been Moscow and St Petersburg as well
as the regions of Swerdlovsk and Ulyanovsk on the Volga.
People from the Caucasus region have also be targeted, said Brod.
According to estimates, the members of rightwing extremist
organizations in Russia number at as many as 70,000.
In a climate of growing xenophobia in Russia, four rightwing
extremist organizations in Moscow banded together at the beginning of
June to form a Russian nationalist movement that plans to contest
elections in the future.
According to human rights organization the Sova Centre, 68 people
died in Russia from rightwing violence in 2007, with the number
increasing yearly at around 20 per cent.
Russians Name Peter The Great, Pushkin, Stalin The Greatest Persons
Itar-Tass, June 21, 2008
MOSCOW, June 21 (Itar-Tass) -- Russian tsar Peter the Great, poet
Alexander Pushkin, and Soviet dictator Josef Stalin top the list of
most popular historical figures in Russia, according to the opinions
expressed by tens of thousands of Russians who participated in the
qualification stage of the "Name of Russia" project launched by the
Rossia television channel in the middle of May 2008.
The channel's Deputy Director General Alexander Lyubimov said the
project would allow Russian people to choose their greatest fellow
citizen in the history of Russia.
The participants were invited to choose the person who symbolises the
nation out of a list of 500 persons from Ryurik to Boris Yeltsin. The
list had been compiled by the Institute of Russian History of the
Russian Academy of Sciences and finally was reduced to 50 names.
Of the remaining names, 12 will be selected in the second stage by
September 1. The final stage will be held in the form of a political
"These will be debates among 12 parties named after each of the
candidates," Lyubimov said, adding that each of the candidates would
be presented by a living celebrity.
The organisers refrained from making forecasts. But Lyubimov says the
voting has so far presented no surprises and its results largely
coincide with the results of public opinion polls conducted in a
According to the head of the Public Opinion Fund, Alexander Oslon,
Peter the Great was also named among the most outstanding
personalities in Russia. Poet Mikhail Lermontov turned out to be best
recognised among the men of litters but was eventually outweighed by
The low rating of scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky surprised the
organisers. Well known among adults, he happened to be completely
unknown to the younger generation.
Lyubimov also regretted that "musicians and painters were
undeestimated". The top 50 included only Pyotr Tchaikovsky, singer
Fyodor Chaliapin, and painter Andrei Rublev.
"Many important names have evaded public attention, but for some
reason we tend to 'chew' on the same names over and over again," Oslon
In his opinion, the project may help bring attention of the nation to
the forgotten names and stir interest in history.
Lyubimov said the project may be continued if proved popular.
Protestant Church Near St. Petersburg, Russia Destroyed by Arson
FSU Monitor, June 23, 2008
A Protestant church in Shlisselburg, Russia (Leningrad region) was
destroyed in an arson attack on May 15, according to a June 19, 2008
report by the Slavic Law Center. The non-denominational Autonomous
Protestant Community has waged in a long-standing battle with local
authorities allegedly intent on stealing their land for the
development of a shopping center. The 100+ person congregation almost
lost their church in a 2003 arson attack, which coincided with
pressure from local authorities to give up their land. However, after
the church won a court case, the pressure lessened, only to be
ratcheted up again this year. Police are investigating the fire.
Moscow Prosecutors Close Investigation into Reported Attack on Muslim
FSU Monitor, June 23, 2008
The investigation into a reported attack on a religiously observant
Muslim woman in Moscow has ended, according to a June 11, 2008 report
by the web site Islam.ru. Yulduz Khaknazarova, a citizen of Uzbekistan
and a student at the Moscow Islamic University whose case became a
cause celebre for Russian Muslim activists, was attacked on May 11 at
the Partizanskaya metro station while wearing a hijab. She claimed
that three young people came up to her, made racist insults, and then
hit her in the face with a metal object, breaking her nose. Her
attackers then kicked and punched her multiple times in the stomach
and face. She was taken to the emergency room of a nearby hospital
with serious injuries.
Ms. Khaknazarova alleged that police at first tried to persuade her to
pretend that she had been injured from a fall on the rails. A month
later, police have officially determined that no attack took place.
Russian Muslim activists continue their efforts to have the case
Racist Bomb Scare in Ukhta
FSU Monitor, June 24, 2008
Someone attached a fake explosive device to a racist scarecrow during
a Tatar cultural festival in Ukhta, Russia (Komi Republic), according
to a June 23, 2008 report by the Regnum news agency. The fake bomb was
discovered on June 21 attached to a scarecrow with the word "churka"
(a racist pejorative) painted on it. Police are questioning a suspect.
Orthodox Believers Clash at Church
The Moscow Times, 25 June 2008
The followers of a Russian Orthodox bishop critical of the church's
policies clashed Tuesday with members of the Orthodox Christian branch
of the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi at the Christ the
There was a second altercation later outside the nearby Kropotkinskaya
metro station between Nashi members and the followers of Bishop Diomid
of Chukotka, who has accused the church of being too ecumenicist and
aiding the government.
Diomid's followers had been protesting outside the cathedral since the
morning when, at around 1 p.m., Nashi members approached and the
altercation occurred, Interfax reported. During the melee,
protesters hit Nashi members with icons while screaming "yids," said
members of the Union of Orthodox Citizens, whose members were also
Police eventually moved in, and three of Diomid's followers were detained.
Teens Convicted of Burning Man to Death
The Moscow Times, 25 June 2008
A Vladimir court has convicted four teenagers of burning a man to
death in the eternal flame of their town's World War II memorial.
The Vladimir Regional Court on Monday gave prison sentences of 16 to
18 years to three 19-year-old defendants, while a 15-year-old
defendant was sentenced to a juvenile detention center for nine
years, court spokesman Vladimir Ganenko said.
The victim, Alexei Denisov, 25, came upon the teenagers while walking
home on the night of Jan. 1 in the industrial town of Kolchugino,
about 130 kilometers northeast of Moscow.
He reprimanded them for smoking and drinking around the flame, the
magazine Ogonyok wrote. The youths beat Denisov unconscious and threw
him face-first into the flame, Ganenko said.
They were caught after a guard in the nearby city court called police,
who found the defendants dragging Denisov's body toward a dumpster,
"This was a brutal, cruel, conscious group murder, and, of course, it
deserves a severe punishment," Denisov's mother, Olga Denisova, told
NTV television. Her son was her only child.
The teenagers -- Alexander Andreyev, Mikhail Danilov, Nikolai Kuragin,
all 19, and Alexei Goryachev, 15 -- laughed during the reading of the
verdict and taunted Denisov's relatives from the defendants' cage in
the courtroom, the Rossia television station reported.
Russia 'abuses Ingush minority'
BBC News, June 25, 2008
Russian security forces have carried out widespread human rights
abuses in the southern province of Ingushetia, a campaign group has
Human Rights Watch (HRW) says it has documented dozens of arbitrary
detentions, disappearances, acts of torture and extra-judicial
Russia has been fighting Muslim rebels in the area for several years.
The Kremlin has not yet commented on the HRW report, but local
officials have dismissed it as biased.
The predominantly Muslim province borders Chechnya and has suffered
from overflowing unrest.
There is a low-level insurgency, with regular small-scale ambushes
against police and soldiers.
The report claims that heavy-handed attempts to curb the insurgency
have resulted in persecution of peaceful Muslims and government critics.
Opposition groups are marginalised, independent media stifled and
rallies are violently dispersed, it said.
The US-based group said in a statement that Russia's "brutal
counter-insurgency policies" were antagonising local residents.
"Far from ending the insurgency, 'dirty war' tactics are likely to
further destabilise the situation in Ingushetia and beyond in the
North Caucasus," the report said.
But Ingush officials disputed the report's claims.
Tamara Khautiyeva, deputy speaker of the Ingush parliament, told
Russia's Interfax news agency that rights activists had exaggerated
"If there are certain cases of violations of human rights by law
enforcement agencies, they are being investigated and assessed in
order to prevent them in the future," she said.
Ingushetia's human rights ombudsman Karimsultan Kukurkhayev said crime
levels in the region were falling.
"There has not been a single abduction or case of torture this year,"
Voronezh Prosecutors Warn School Principals to Share Information on
FSU Monitor, June 25, 2008
Prosecutors in the Levoberezhny district of Voronezh, Russia issued
official warnings to school principals for violating anti-extremism
legislation by not informing police that some of their students were
neo-Nazis, according to a June 25, 2008 report by the Sova
Information-Analytical Center. Twenty school principals were cited
after four students from the district committed hate crimes murders in
recent months. Voronezh officials may have been inspired by their
colleagues in St. Petersburg, another city known for high levels of
neo-Nazi violence, who issued similar warnings to principals last
month. In reporting the story, Sova pointed out the oddity of
prosecutors warning 20 principals in connection with the crimes of
only four students.
Krasnoyarsk Cemetery Vandals Sentenced
FSU Monitor, June 25, 2008
Four teenagers were convicted of vandalizing a Jewish cemetery,
according to a June 25, 2008 article posted on the web site of the
national daily "Komsomolskaya Pravda." The defendants faced the rarely
applied charge of "damaging tombstones motivated by ethnic
hatred"--most cemetery vandals are charged simply with "hooliganism."
They were found guilty of vandalizing the cemetery on the night of
October 7, 2007. One was confined to a psychiatric institution, the
others got sentences of between two and two and a half years and were
fined as well. The vandals damaged 61 gravestones the night of their
rampage. Nevertheless, the sentence was unusually harsh in comparison
to previous rulings in similar cases, where the vast majority of
defendants got off with warnings or suspended sentences for
Neo-Nazi Murdered Homeless Person in Udmurtiya Village
FSU Monitor, June 26, 2008
Police in the village of Uva, Russia (Republic of Udmurtiya) detained
a neo-Nazi in connection with the murder of a homeless person,
according to a June 24, 2008 report by the Sova Information-Analytical
Center. The killing took place on May 28. The body of the 45 year old
victim was found at a stadium; he had been beaten to death. Police
detained a 20 year old suspect. Neo-Nazis regularly kill homeless
people, even those that are ethnic Russians, in what they term
Russian Prosecutors Charge Jehovah's Witnesses With Incitement of
FSU Monitor, June 26, 2008
Prosecutors in Asbest, Russia (Sverdlovsk region) have charged local
Jehovah's Witnesses with inciting religious hatred and have asked a
court to brand their publications extremist materials, according to a
June 24, 2008 report by the Interfax news agency. Investigators
determined that the publications present a negative image of the
dominant Russian Orthodox Church. Legal cases against Jehovah's
Witnesses have become more frequent in Russia after a Moscow court
outlawed them on spurious charges, but by openly abusing
anti-incitement and anti-extremism laws, the Asbest prosecutor's
office is taking a relatively rare path.
Tula Law Enforcement Officials Reveal Previously Unreported Hate Crime
FSU Monitor, June 27, 2008
A public meeting of law enforcement officials in Tula, Russia yielded
information on a previously unreported hate crime, according to a June
26, 2008 report on the web site Jewish.ru. At the June 25 meeting, the
region's chief prosecutor Oleg Chernysh said: "We have witnessed cruel
crimes by youth radical groups in various regions of Russia,
unfortunately there was such an incident in the Tula region: four
youths stabbed a citizen of Uzbekistan." Mr. Chernysh did not say when
this crime took place or what charges the culprits face. In the
standard and unfortunate practice of Russian law enforcement agencies,
the officials present at the meeting also reported on violations of
immigration laws by around 200 of the 40,000 estimated foreign
citizens living in the region, as if to "balance" the embarrassing
information they revealed about racist attacks on migrants.
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX FUNDAMENTALISTS CLASH WITH PRO-KREMLIN YOUTHS
Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's Weekly Newsletter, Volume 8, Number 26, June
On June 24 at about 1 p.m., followers of Russian Orthodox Bishop
Diomid of Chukotka critical of the church's policies, clashed with
members of the Orthodox Christian branch of the pro-Kremlin youth
group Nashi at the Christ the Savior Cathedral, "The Moscow Times"
reported. Later, a second altercation took place outside a nearby
metro station between Nashi members and the followers of the bishop
who has accused the church of being too ecumenicist and helping the
During the melee, protesters hit Nashi members with icons while
screaming "yids," according to members of the Union of Orthodox
Citizens whose members were also present. Police eventually moved in,
and three of Bishop Diomid's followers were detained.
Putin Expresses Gratitude To Church For Uniting Russian World
Itar-Tass, June 28, 2008
MOSCOW, June 28 (Itar-Tass) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
expressed gratitude for the Russian Orthodox Church's great
contribution to the uniting of the Russian world and promised
comprehensive state support for the Church.
"I want to thank with all my heart all who contribute to the blessed
cause of uniting of the Russian world," Putin said when speaking in
the Kremlin at the meeting marking the 1020th anniversary of the
The premier thanked Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia.
The state will continue to support initiatives of the Church to
strengthen civil and religious accord and its social, cultural,
educational and charity mission, Putin assured.
The Orthodox faith from the very beginning was tolerant to other
religions, and this position of the Russian Orthodox Church
contributed to the foundation of the multinational and multi-religion
state, he noted.
The premier said he was satisfied with the development of the
state-church dialogue. "We will continue to work this way with the
Russian Orthodox Church in the future," he said.
The adoption of the Orthodox faith was the most important and
deciding landmark in Russia's fate. In the choice were sources of the
statehood, great culture, national character and traditions, Putin
The Orthodox faith inseparably linked the fates of peoples of Russia,
Ukraine, Belarus and other countries. "We have common values and the
common spiritual way that began near the Dnieper baptistery. We must
maintain the invaluable wealth," Putin said.
The 20 years that passed since the celebration of the 1000th
anniversary of the Baptism of Rus became turning for the Russian
Orthodox Church and all the Russian nation and society. It was time of
revival of church life and true spiritual and moral orientations, the
Putin particularly noted the importance of the restoration of the
Russian Church unity, saying it was realization of the dream of
several generations of compatriots about mutual forgiveness and
overcoming of the tragic split of the fratricidal civil war.
Putin reminded that the Archbishop Assembly was held in Moscow during
the days. Participants in the assembly address current problems
concerning all the Russian society. It is another sign that the
Russian Orthodox Church is concerned over the needs and problems of
people and serves as a reliable support for them. "I believe it will
be so forever," the premier said.
Ryazan Officials, Orthodox Diocese, and Academics Demonize Minority
FSU Monitor, June 30, 2008
A June 18 conference at Ryazan State University prompted two articles
in the local press demonizing minority Christians in what appears to
be a coordinated campaign. A June 25, 2008 article in the local youth
paper "Molodyozhnaya Sreda" reported that local security officials,
professors at the university's department of theology, and the head of
the local Russian Orthodox diocese's missionary department
participated in a conference entitled "The Destructive Activity of
Religious Organizations on the Territory of Ryazan Oblast" during
which Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Pentecostals were
labeled dangerous "sects." The article began with the author wistfully
stating that: "If in earlier times heretics were mercilessly
destroyed, nowadays in conformity with the 'Declaration of Human
Rights' everyone has the right to choose his own religion." She
defines sects as a religious group that is not the ruling faith of a
country, and adds that, "people who become followers of sectarian
teachings lose their identity" through brainwashing, isolation, and
starvation of their adepts (including children) into submission. She
accuses Baptists of refusing blood transfusions, confusing them with
Jehovah's Witnesses, then compares "sects" to skinheads and other
destructive elements of society. The article ends with the address and
phone number of the local Russian Orthodox diocese, where readers can
report the activity of "sects."
That same day, the local supplement to the most widely read newspaper
in Russia--"Komsomolskaya Pravda"--ran an article that contained
extensive quotes from the head of the local Orthodox Church diocese's
missionary department, Father Areseny. The article began with a dire
warning--even religious groups that at first glance appear harmless,
"can enslave the personality of even a stable person." Father Arseny
accused "sects" of operating in secret and fooling youths with what
appear at first to be harmless activities like anti-narcotics therapy.
He named a few Pentecostal, Baptist, Mormon, Hare Krishna and
Jehovah's Witnesses congregations in Ryazan, some as small as five
people, as threats to the public, and gave specific information about
their locations (neo-Nazi and some pro-government youths groups have
attacked minority Christians and their churches in recent years). He
then expressed alarm at the fact that Baptists have worked at a local
orphanage for 12 years, and stated that: "The children that grow up
there already don't see themselves as part of Russia. They are ready
to go the States."
The article ends with the following warning: "It's worth noting that
sects present a serious threat, influence people's psyches, suppress
their personalities, and take away their money. Falling into a sect
means losing yourself, your loved ones, your relatives, and your
Six Neo-Nazis Convicted in Yekaterinburg Court for Murder
FSU Monitor, June 30, 2008
A court in Yekaterinburg, Russia (Sverdlovsk region) sentenced six
youths to prison for killing a man they thought was an ethnic
minority, according to a June 30, 2008 report posted on the web site
Gazeta.ru. For some reason, the court threw out charges of extremism
against members of the neo-Nazi gang "Zig 88" (international neo-Nazi
code for "Heil Hitler"), despite video clips the group posted on the
Internet screaming neo-Nazi slogans and calling for recruits to aid
them in "cleansing" their district of non-Russians. In addition, the
prosecution argued that the extremists periodically gathered in their
apartment block's courtyard to recruit new members and organize racist
attacks. They were detained after their January 13, 2007 murder of an
ethnic Russian man whom they thought was from the Caucasus. The victim
died after multiple stab wounds and blows to his head and spine. All
six defendants were found guilty of murder and sentenced to between
six and ten years in prison.
June 2008. Monthly summary
SOVA News Releases, July 1, 2008
In June 2008, no less than 7 attacks of racist and neo-nationalist
character were recorded, as the result of which no less than 13 people
suffered. Like in May, let us underline that most likely we are not
dealing with a real reduction in the activity of the skinheads but
with lack of information. In June, incidents were recorded in Moscow,
St. Petersburg, Volgograd, Lipetsk, Nizhniy Novgorod, and Yaroslavl.
In the first six months of 2008, 255 people suffered from similar
attacks, and 58 of them perished. Incidents were registered in 27
regions of Russia. Within the same period of the year 2007, 351 people
suffered, and 49 of them lost their lives. We see thus that after the
splash of violence at the beginning of the year, the number of reports
about the victims sharply declined.
Moscow (35 killed and 96 injured) and St. Petersburg (12 killed and 19
injured) remain the most important centers of violence.
A new phenomenon, which became noticeable in June, consists of the
actions of Caucasian young people who either consciously incite fights
with the adherents of ultra-right ideas, or willingly accept the
provocative calls of the latter. In June there occurred at least one
such fight, in Mitino, the North-West of Moscow. Still, the
communications about some incidents look more like conscious attempts
to present ordinary conflicts as justified by nationalism. In
principle, such groups of Caucasian young people were recorded already
in 2007 (it suffices to mention the fight in the Slavianskaya Square
which occurred on June 22 that year). Provocative communications
concerning the preparation of such fights could have been encountered
in the spring of this year on the Internet. However, in the majority
of the cases, it is difficult to discern among similar statements
which is a provocation, a fabrication, or a conscious distortion of
the facts. Nevertheless, the old fears of experts, that the inadequate
prosecution of xenophobia and racist violence would lead to the
radicalization and nationalistically motivated aggression of a part of
the potential or real victims of Nazi-skinheads, were proven to be
true. Now we can affirm that these groups do exist, and that they
associate according to their region of origin and/or phenotype
(Caucasus Region Caucasian appearance) that is, according to the
same principles on which they are identified by the Nazi-skinheads. At
the same time, they copy the behavior of the neo-Nazis (provoking
conflict, filming it with the mobile phone video camera, placing the
recordings on the Internet).
In June, a guilty verdict against seven people was given on the charge
of a group murder motivated by nationalist hatred: on June 30, 2008,
in Yekaterinburg, the convicted members of the «Sieg-88» group were
given long prison sentences (from 6 to 10 years).
In all, since the beginning of 2008, no less than 12 sentences against
39 people in 12 regions of the country were issued on counts of
violent crimes qualified as crimes of hatred.
In matters concerning the propaganda of hatred, no less than two
guilty sentences were given (one in the Astrakhan region and the other
in Blagoveshchensk), against four people.
In June 2008, the federal list of extremist materials was replenished.
At the end of the month, it already included 151 titles of materials
considered to be extremist in nature. In the number of materials
included in the last adjustment of the list, let us note the presence
of the videotape of the neo-Nazi murder of the natives of Tadzhikistan
and Dagestan, which appeared on the Internet in August 2007. This
month, law-enforcement agencies acknowledged the case as murder and
identified the killer.
II SURVEYS, ANALYSES, COMMENTS
ST.PETERSBURG REFUSES TO ACCEPT: VTsIOM and Levada-Center gauged
ethnic tension in society
By: Yelena Ragozina
Vedomosti, June 17, 2008
STATE POLICY BASED ON PSEUDO-PATRIOTIC DOCTRINES FUELS ETHNIC HATRED
Sociologists of the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center
(VTsIOM) approached 1,600 respondents in 46 Russian regions between
May 31 and June 1 asking questions about ethnic relations.
Twenty-seven percent respondents said there is noticeably less tension
in ethnic relations these days (this group was 10% smaller in July
2005 and January 2006). The North-West Federal Region became the only
fly in the ointment because 40% respondents there commented on the
growth of ethnic tension in the country.
On the other hand, negative attitude towards immigrants keeps
growing in intensity. The number of the Russians who do not mind
immigrants at all went down from 21% two years ago to 15% these days.
The level of negative attitude remains permanently high - 68-69%. The
situation is particularly problematic in Moscow and St.Petersburg
where the average sympathy/antipathy ratio is gauged at 16% to 75%.
According to VTsIOM General Director Vladimir Fyodorov, the
powers-that-be took some measures to lessen ethnic tension in society:
those guilty of ethnic clashes in Kondopoga were tried and convicted,
restrictions on the number of foreigners at marketplaces were
introduced, and the chauvinist Motherland party was liquidated.
Levada-Center sociologists in the meantime say that 8% respondents
called immigration one of the worst problems in January 2008 (against
11% a year ago). To quote Levada-Center Assistant Director Aleksei
Grazhdankin, "... search for internal and external public enemies has
become fashionable. Initially formed by the powers-that-be, this trend
has a considerable following among the population that does not see
any improvement in everyday life." Yuri Vdovin, a human rights
activist from St.Petersburg, ascribes the growth of the negative
attitude towards immigrants to the state policy centered around
pseudo-patriotic doctrines. "Here in St.Petersburg, all ethnic hatred
crimes are treated as banal hooliganism," Vdovin said.
New Twists in the Russian-Ukrainian Dispute
by Roman Kupchinsky
Eurasia Daily Monitor, 17 June 2008
The continuing Ukrainian-Russian war of words took on a new twist on
June 13, when the Russian Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine of acting
jointly with unnamed foreign companies to develop oil and gas fields
illegally off the Crimean coast of the Black Sea shelf, claiming that
the legal status of the territory had not yet been determined
(Interfax, June 13).
"The Russian side," according to a commentary distributed by the
Russian Foreign Ministry on June 13, "is drawing attention to the fact
that the said areas are the subject of negotiations between Russia and
Ukraine on the delimitation of the continental shelf and the exclusive
economic zone in the Black Sea waters. In this connection, we believe
that the above-mentioned activity is of an unlawful character and
should be ceased" (Interfax, June 13).
The Russian side specified that this activity was taking place in an
area named the Structure of Subbotyne and the Rising of Pallas. A
source in the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry told Interfax that the
Russian claims were "absurd." "The Subbotyne maritime oil field is
located on the territory of the Ukrainian part of the Black Sea shelf,
and the prospecting area of Pallas, which is really located both in
Russian and Ukrainian territories, is not being developed by anybody,"
the source told Interfax.
The off-shore drilling conflict appeared to be connected to the
dispute between the U.S. energy company Vanco and the Ukrainian
government, which lifted Vanco's license to drill for oil and gas in
the Black Sea shelf in the vicinity of the territory being disputed by
The government of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko claimed that Vanco
had broken the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) by assigning the
drilling license it held to an off-shore subsidiary company registered
in the British Virgin Islands called Vanco Prykerchynsky.
Tymoshenko stated that the agreements that were concluded with Vanco
in 2007 were not transparent, and she accused President Viktor
Yushchenko of lobbying for Vanco's interests. Yushchenko flatly denied
the accusation and called on Tymoshenko to review her decision on
Vanco. Meanwhile, Vanco has threatened to sue the Ukrainian government
(EDM, May 21).
On June 14 the president of Russia added his voice to the Crimean
debate. Dmitry Medvedev did so in a message to the residents of
Sevastopol during the commemorations of the 225th anniversary of the
founding of the city, which is the base of Russia's Black Sea Fleet.
Falling back on nostalgic, nationalistic images, Medvedev said,
"Sevastopol, a hero city, a city of workers, has witnessed truly
landmark events. It is the cradle of the Russian Black Sea Fleet with
which it has always shared both the bitterness of losses and the
greatness of victories" (Interfax June 14).
Medvedev was careful in not calling for Sevastopol to be returned to
the Russian Federation, thereby distancing himself from the
provocative statements made by Yuriy Luzhkov, the Mayor of Moscow, who
a few weeks earlier called for the return of the city to Russia.
A harder line was taken by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov
who told a meeting in Sevastopol, "The fleet itself is hard to imagine
without its main naval base .Russia is increasingly being reminded [by
Ukraine] of 2017, the year the fleet is to be withdrawn from Ukraine
under a Russian-Ukrainian agreement." Ivanov, playing the ethnic
Russian card designed to win the allegiance of Crimean Russians,
stressed that "92 percent of the population of Sevastopol are our
fellow countrymen and countrywomen" (Interfax June 14).
During his speech, Ivanov was interrupted by a heckler who yelled out
"It's our city!" Ivanov replied, "Yes, it is our city," adding "From
the moment it [Sevastopol] was formed, its fate was irrevocably linked
to the Russian empire and to the Soviet Union" (Ukrayinska Pravda,
Russian functionaries visiting Sevastopol appeared not to have known
about Viktor Yushchenko's meeting with Dmitry Medvedev earlier in St.
Petersburg during the economic forum where the Ukrainian president
told his colleague, "The treaty on the presence of the Black Sea Fleet
in Sevastopol, which implies that it [the fleet] will remain there
until 2017, is a treaty that the Ukrainian side will fulfill to the
last letter" (Interfax AVN, June 9).
The less confrontational tack taken by Medvedev in his note to the
Sevastopol gathering, which visibly contrasted with Ivanov's hard
line, could indicate that there are differences in opinion between
Medvedev and Putin on the Crimean question. Ivanov is widely believed
to be Putin's man and appears to share his boss's views on the Crimea.
In April Putin reportedly told U.S. President George Bush during the
NATO summit in Bucharest that most of Ukraine's territory had been
"given away" by Russia and threatened to encourage the secession of
Crimea if Ukraine persisted in joining NATO (Moscow Times, April 8).
It will be important to see if these differences continue and who will
be in charge of Russian policy toward Ukraine, Putin or Medvedev.
NATO examines Ukraine's readiness to join
Strong opposition seen from Russia
by Judy Dempsey
International Herald Tribune, 17 June 2008
BERLIN -- NATO's secretary general, accompanied by top envoys from all
26 countries in the alliance, is trying to get a sense of whether
Ukraine, the largest former Soviet republic so far to seek membership
in the organization, is making progress with preparations to join and
in resolving its disputes with Russia.
The secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, and NATO ambassadors are
holding talks in Kiev this week with the Ukrainian Defense Ministry
and with top members of Ukraine's three main political factions to try
to evaluate the extent of change in the Ukrainian military. They are
also trying to measure the gravity of a fresh warning from Russia,
which says that it will never allow Ukraine to join the Atlantic alliance.
To understand attitudes across Ukraine toward NATO, the alliance is
sending the delegation to the pro-European city of Lviv, in west
Ukraine, and to the more pro-Russian cities of Dnipropetrovsk and
Kharkiv in the east.
Alliance members promised at a meeting in Bucharest in April to hold
talks with Ukraine and the former Soviet republic of Georgia on a
Membership Action Plan, the preparatory stage for full membership.
But Europeans, particularly in France and Germany, are highly
skeptical about the suitability of Ukrainian membership. Meanwhile,
Ukrainians are deeply split over whether membership is desirable and
there are widespread misperceptions about what membership would even
''Our biggest challenge in Ukraine is explaining to the public what
NATO is about,'' said James Appathurai, spokesman for the alliance.
''Many think that if Ukraine did join NATO, then NATO would deploy
nuclear weapons on their territory.''
Ukraine has been slow to introduce the major defense changes required
by the Atlantic alliance, according to NATO officials. The
requirements include providing funding for the restructuring and
reduction of the armed forces, overhauling military intelligence and
bringing more civilian control and transparency to the military.
The idea that Ukraine could one day join NATO has provoked a strong
negative reaction from Russia. The Kremlin, seeking to influence a
meeting in December of NATO foreign ministers, recently intensified
its campaign to block Ukraine from integrating the alliance.
Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian president, made it clear during talks two
weeks ago with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany that he strongly
objected to Ukraine and Georgia joining the alliance. Instead, he
called for a new European security architecture that would include
Russia but that would weaken the Atlantic organization.
According to polls conducted recently by the independent Democratic
Initiatives Foundation in Kiev, 59 percent of Ukrainians would vote
against joining NATO, up from 53 percent last December, while 22
percent would vote in favor, down from 32 percent.
Last month, the pro-Russian Communist Party of Ukraine announced that
it had collected one million signatures from residents in the Crimea
demanding that the Russian Black Sea Fleet be stationed there permanently.
Under an agreement between Ukraine and Russia, the fleet - a potent
symbol of Russian presence in Crimea and the biggest employer there -
is to withdraw by May 2017.
If the petition gains momentum, it could create a conflict between
Russia and Ukraine and convince some NATO countries that even offering
a Membership Action Plan to Ukraine would be risky. The Communist
Party alleges, for example, that the Black Sea Fleet would be replaced
by a NATO fleet, which NATO denies.
Russia is using its energy reserves as a political instrument, just as
it did in 2006, one year after the electoral victory of the
pro-Western president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko. At that time,
Gazprom cut off supplies to Ukraine, allegedly over a price dispute.
Medvedev told Yushchenko this month that gas prices would double in 2009.
Russia is also questioning the status of the Crimean Peninsula, where
more than 60 percent of the population is ethnic Russian. Through the
Moscow-Crimea Foundation that is funded in part by Yuri Luzhkov, the
mayor of Moscow, a strong anti-NATO movement has emerged there.
The Russian bid to prevent Ukraine from being offered a Membership
Action Plan has also benefited from disputes inside the Ukrainian
government and Parliament.
Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, the leader of the coalition
government, have been involved in bitter power struggles since
Tymoshenko became prime minister last year.
This has helped the pro-Russian group led by former Prime Minister
Viktor Yanukovich to mobilize public opinion over the disadvantages in
joining NATO. The group contends that membership would seriously
damage relations with Russia.
Over 60 percent of Ukrainians want to maintain friendly relations with
Russia, according to public opinion polls.
NATO ExpansionDon't Expect the Russians to Agree
by John Marone
Eurasianhome.org, 18 June 2008
If Kremlin leaders of the 1980s had had a crystal ball and looked 20
years into the future of their vast land empire, their inheritance
from the czars, they might have renewed the Stalinist purges of the
1930s or determined to start world war three, letting the cards fall
where they would anything to prevent the loss of territory that
occurred after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
The Russia of today, of course, has gained from opening itself up to
Western technology and investment. But now, awash in cash from oil and
gas exports, Moscow is remembering its glory days, its place in the
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