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Bulletin 3:19 (2009) - Special Issue: SOVA Spring ’09 Report

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  • andreumland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 3, No. 19(61), 2009 - Special Issue: SOVA Spring 09 Report The Spring of 2009:
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 9 10:39 AM
      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 3, No. 19(61), 2009 - Special Issue: SOVA Spring '09 Report

      The Spring of 2009: From Racist Killings to Political Terror
      By Galina Kozhevnikova. Edited by Alexander Verkhovsky
      SOVA Center, July 29, 2009

      C O N T E N T S

      1 Manifestations of Radical Nationalism
      1.1 Violence
      1.2 The Ultra-Rights' Political Activities
      1.3 Nationalism in the Public Space
      2 Counteraction to Radical Nationalism
      2.1 Criminal Prosecution
      2.2 Other Sanctions
      3 Excessive and Unfounded Sanctions against Extremism
      3.1 Lawmaking
      3.2 The Ban of NBP and the Anti-Extremist Enforcement
      3.3 Attempts to Limit the Freedom of Conscience
      3.4 "Social Group" as an Instrument of Repression
      3.5 Other Developments
      APPENDIX: Crime and Punishment Statistics (2004 – July 30, 2009)

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      Racist violence has not reached the same scale as in 2007 and early 2008, yet it remains sustainably high. Violent acts by the ultra-right increasingly resemble terrorist attacks, sometimes involving explosives. A trend of political violence first observed in late 2008 continues: now the neo-Nazi attack (or claim responsibility for having attacked) not only individuals with non-Slav appearance, but also government establishments, such as police stations, military draft committees, etc.
      Political organizations of radical nationalists show continued stagnation. Their public activity does not decrease, but it does not increase either, and apparently, their audience is the same as before, fluctuating from less radical to more radical groups and back. Speaking about counteraction to radical nationalism, we note a certain drop in the rates of criminal prosecution of both violence and propaganda. Even though legal qualification of violent crimes has noticeably improved, prosecution of xenophobic propaganda remains problematic, with excessive focus on minor episodes and inappropriately mild (or nonexistent) punishment of actual ideologists and leaders of the ultra-right groups.
      Inappropriate anti-extremist enforcement practices continue in all spheres reported earlier: broad interpretation and toughening up of existing legislation; persecution of mass media and civil society activists for their criticism of law enforcement agencies and government and for calls to civil protests; confiscation of entire print-runs of publications on the pretext of reviewing them for extremism, etc. Prosecutions are on the rise in connection with the enforcement of the National Bolshevik Party ban; those targeted by prosecution include people who identify as members of the banned party, as well as people having nothing to do with NBP.


      1.1 Violence
      Racist and neo-Nazi attacks continued in the spring of 2009, even though their scale never reached the same as in the spring of 2008. The SOVA Center's monitoring revealed that in spring at least 68 people were affected, and 14 of them were killed. In a similar period of 2008, there were 151 known victims, including 26 deaths. In total, at least 32 people were killed since the beginning of the year and at least 125 more were injured in violent attacks reported in 23 Russian regions. As before, Moscow and surrounding area come first in terms of violent incidents. In spring, at lest five people were killed and at least 21 were wounded here (since the beginning of 2009, almost half of all victims - 15 killed and 55 injured – were reported in and around Moscow). Nizhny Novgorod came first in the number of violent attacks in spring – between March and May 2009 at least three deaths were reported and at least four people were injured (in total since the beginning of this year, at least three people were killed and six were injured in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast).
      A statement was published on a number of ultra-right websites about their intention to hold the Day of Rage on May 5 in the memory of NSO leader Maxim Basylyov who had committed suicide in pre-trial detention; the announcement had extensive resonance. In our opinion, the statement was yet another example of smart self-promotion of a dwarfish neo-Nazi group, since the Russian mass media spread the word about the hypothetical action more extensively than the group would have done. [1]
      As a result, on that day and on the day before at least one explosion (a commercial kiosk, Moscow) and three blast attacks (a police station and a military draft committee) occurred in Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Cheboksary. These incidents revealed with a high degree of probability that ultra-right groups might have been involved in the attacks. In addition, a neo-Nazi carrying a few kilos of explosives was arrested in Moscow on May 5; apparently, he was about to commit a terrorist attack which had been announced before, alongside the Day of Rage. Other incidents which occurred on the same day and for which the neo-Nazi assumed responsibility[2] seem to be either unrelated criminal offenses or false allegations, while "claiming responsibility" for them was just another attempt at self-promotion.
      To note, these were not the only episodes in spring which involved the use of explosives and the Molotov cocktail and which were suspected to be orchestrated by right-wing radicals. Thus, in March 2009 in St. Petersburg a blast occurred in the Leningrad Trade House. The suspect in the case had nationalist literature confiscated from his home (one of the books found on him - The Russian Terror - was later banned as extremist in May 2009 in proceedings unrelated to this incident). In addition, a few videos were posted on the internet allegedly showing arson attacks against police cars and security posts before May 5; however, to the best of our knowledge, the incidents shown in the videos had occurred a few months before, in the winter of 2008–2009.
      After a winter break, vandals resumed their activity in spring. Thus, in the three spring months we documented at least 23 acts of vandalism. In total since the beginning of this year, we have documented at least 35 acts of vandalism in 23 Russian regions, which were almost certainly motivated by religious or ideological hatred. Traditionally, vandals were at their most active in late April and early May (at least 14 incidents), coinciding with Hitler's birthday and the Victory Day. For the first time in years, ideological vandalism was the most common type, such as neo-Nazi graffiti on the World War II memorials and on communal graves of soldiers killed in the war, as well as neo-Nazi graffiti campaigns targeting urban sites – ten incidents in spring and 14 since the beginning of the year were reported. Jewish sites were the second most common target, with seven vandals' attacks in spring and nine in total since the beginning of the year. In April we documented at least four acts of vandalism (in total at least seven since the beginning of this year) targeting Orthodox Christian sites and clearly motivated by religious hatred; the vandals' activity was probably linked to the Orthodox Easter preparations.

      1.2 The Ultra-Rights' Political Activities
      The ultra-right ideology-driven groups were no less yet no more active than the year before. As before, they cannot be described as having overcome their long-lasting stagnation. The actions they stage in Moscow cannot bring together more people than they had before the 2008 discord. Yet they continue to organize nationwide campaigns, such as one in the spring of 2009. In the past few years Russian nationalists developed a tradition of First of May marches in certain Russian cities. This year, they marched in at lest six regions (plus they distributed xenophobic leaflets in at least four other regions). The most numerous nationalist march outside Moscow was in the city of Kirov. To note, in Nizhny Novgorod and, according to media reports, in Perm Krai, DPNI and NBP supporters marched together.
      The number of right-wing radical group members willing to participate in public meetings and marches has not increased, but their political affiliations have been changing.
      The Russki Obraz (Russian Image) group which made a public appearance in 2008 has been stealing the audience from DPNI. Russki Obras is more radical and aggressive, but they claim some lobbying potential with the State Duma (while DPNI lost their lobbying capacity after the 2007 elections). Russki Obraz currently competes not only with DPNI, but also with "the old NBP" and combines, as revealed by the recent First of May manifestation in Moscow, anti-capitalist with ultra-right slogans. At the same time, Russki Obraz has been trying to expand its influence in the provinces by relying on their own musical group the Right Hook, popular among the neo-Nazi youth. This tendency was particularly obvious in Krasnodar Krai in June 2009, when racist leaflets and graffiti appeared in a few local cities in anticipation of the group's concert.
      In contrast, DPNI is noticeably less active, particularly in Moscow. Apparently, it was due to realization that their leader Alexander Belov faced a criminal conviction (indeed, he was convicted on 29 May). On 29 April, Belov formally stepped down as leader, explaining that otherwise DPNI would be forced to publicly disown him or face liability under the anti-extremist legislation. In any event, the organization was seriously affected by the resignation – albeit temporary and partial - of the charismatic leader Belov: neither V. Basmanov, nor D. Dyomushkin, nor other more or less known ultra-right activists can replace Alexander Belov in his capacity of a motivational speaker at public events or the "talking head" of Russian nationalists for mass media.
      Another landmark event worth mentioning was an article published by Alexander Sevastyanov in the spring of 2009 and entitled The Russian Underground: Reality, Myths, and Prospects. [3] Regardless of the author's disclaimers preceding the main text, the article is no less than a series of theoretical arguments to justify racist terror.
      The activity of nationalist political parties was rather uneventful in spring, with a few odd incidents. On 26 April 2009, the third congress of Leonid Ivashov's wing of the Union of Russian People (SRN-I) was held in Moscow. Back in 2007, the larger SRN split into two competing wings led by L. Ivashov and A.Turik/M.Nazarov, respectively. [4] Since Ivashov stepped down as the larger SRN leader in November 2008, the third congress was expected to reunite the organization, but failed. Moreover, the congress revealed yet another split within the SRN-I wing - between supporters of the Union's current policy (moderate ethnic nationalism and cooperation with the authorities) and proponents of radical ethno-nationalism, particularly anti-Semitism, and tough opposition to government – the latter group was led by Boris Mironov.

      1.3 Nationalism in the Public Space
      Government officials, public figures and celebrities continue to engage in xenophobic propaganda.
      In particular, earlier hopes that police officials might abandon their "immigrant crime" rhetoric never came true. After a few warnings against "immigrant stereotyping" in February 2009, the authorities resumed their statements about alleged criminality of immigrants. We should note the inappropriate media reporting of a statement (already aggressive and raising a lot of issues) by A. Bastrykin, Head of the Investigative Committee of the RF Prosecutor's Office, about illegal immigration. The statement and its media coverage provoked yet another outburst of anti-migrant publications in the Russian media. [5] While some media seek to calm public anxieties by reporting tougher immigrant quotas or depicting "positive images" of migrants, they can barely offset the negative effect of anti-immigrant statements, since texts about quotas are usually too technical for the general public, while positive images clash with stronger ethnic stereotypes and prejudice against immigrants. A case of explicitly anti-Semitic textbook found in the Ministry of Interior University of St. Petersburg had a strong public resonance. Once the story was made public, the university administration withdrew the book and suspended the teacher using it. However, the scandal and the ostensibly appropriate response of the administration reveal a more serious yet unnoticed problem. It takes a long process involving numerous endorsements for a book to be approved as an official textbook by an educational establishment. It means that in this case either the procedure was merely formalistic and none of the reviewers had read the manuscript, or they had read it and agreed with the author's anti-Semitic statements. However, to the best of our knowledge, no one, except the author, has been punished for the scandal. [6]
      Serious concerns are raised by a recent announcement made by DPNI and the Slavic Union (SS); the neo-Nazi groups claim that the authorities of Perm Krai are prepared to involve them in "monitoring the interethnic relations" in the region. The groups made this announcement in the context of the ultra-right's continuing speculations about the ethnic conflict in Karagai, Perm Oblast, which occurred in the autumn of 2008. The Perm Oblast government never denied the allegations. In our opinion, any government collaboration with groups which explicitly subscribe to racist ideology and have been directly involved in racist violence is unacceptable.
      An incident with a strong public resonance in early May was the publication of excerpts from Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf - actually presented as Hitler's "op-ed column" – in the glossy National Business in Tyumen magazine. Both the Prosecutor's Office and Roskomnadzor promptly issued warnings to the magazine. It was revealed that the magazine had published Mussolini's texts in a similar way before. Understandably, the authorities were concerned. The most remarkable thing, however, was the chief editor's response: he published an open letter arguing that the articles had been reviewed by lawyers for compliance with the anti-extremist legislation and that the texts were in the public domain anyway; the only thing he regretted was being misunderstood in his intentions.


      2.1 Criminal Prosecution
      Even though numerous reports mentioned response to racist crimes, prosecution was less active in the spring of 2009 than back in 2008.
      Violence Between March and May 2009, just eight sentences were passed on racist and violent offenders: two in Moscow, one each in Adygeya, Udmurtia, Chuvashia, Kirov, Kursk and Kaluga Oblasts (in 2008 the number of sentences was 13). Admittedly, the sentencing may be randomly distributed throughout the year. But the legal qualification of offences has markedly improved: in only one of all cases where we know the exact qualification of the crime the authorities relied on article 282 in their qualification of a racist and neo-Nazi nature of the attack in Cheboksary; back in 2008 almost half of similar cases were prosecuted under article 282.
      A total of 22 persons were found guilty in the above trials. The following punishments were meted out: [7]
      - four offenders were sentenced to prison terms between 14 and 17 years;
      - four were sentenced to terms between six and nine years;- nine were sentenced to terms between two and five years;
      - one person was sentenced to correctional labor;
      - four received probational sentences.
      Besides, a court in Moscow dropped a criminal case against two youngsters who attacked a Jewish musician last November; instead of prosecuting, the judge banned the juveniles from attending evening entertainment. The victim appealed in the hope that his attackers would at least be put on probation, but failed.
      Since the beginning of the year, 30 offenders were convicted for racist violence, including 6 probational sentences. We believe that probation is appropriate in certain cases involving racist gangs, where some of the defendants agree to plea deals, which prevents them from rejoining the right-wing radical groups afterwards. In most other cases, however, probational sentences breed impunity and rarely deter racists from criminal conduct, since the offenders are driven by ideology rather than random impulse. An illustrative case was that of a neo-Nazi offender in Izhevsk sentenced this year for assault against a young antifa woman. Back in 2007 he was sentenced to probation for numerous acts of vandalism against a Jewish cultural center in Izhevsk, Udmurtia. Now, two years later, he assaulted the woman, but the police did not arrest him. He was arrested during a final phase of his trial when it was revealed that the defendant, apparently confident of his impunity, [8] was preparing a blast attack, [9] which was prevented by a mere accident.
      We single out two landmark trials in the spring of 2009. The first was a trial of Kirov-based neo-Nazi offenders facing charges for a series of attacks against homeless people, killing two and severely injuring one. The court found the attacks to be motivated by social hatred and sentenced the offenders to eight and nine years of prison, respectively.
      We find this to be a landmark trial, firstly, because so far attacks against homeless persons have rarely been recognized as hate violence.
      Secondly, the case demonstrated how the ultra-right might use a series of techniques to manipulate public opinion in their favor. We know of two illustrative (failed) attempts to apply these techniques: one was the recent case in Kirov and the other was the case of right-wing activist V. Makarov in Saratov - his sentence for a racist murder was upheld by the Supreme Court this March. The techniques are fairly straightforward and aim to discredit the investigators and to intimidate the jury. More specifically, they are designed to:
      a) undermine the credibility of investigators and judges by questioning their character and reputation;
      b) create positive publicity for the defendant (usually by obtaining videos or other statements of family members, such as the V. Makarov's grandparents and the father of one defendant in the Kirov murder case); and c) appeal a guilty verdict and publish personal data of the jurors, thus threatening their safety, on the one hand, and building pressure against potential future jurors if the case is sent back to be reconsidered, on the other.
      This strategy is particularly effective where the ultra-right have access to regional mass media, since the effect of their web-based campaigning is limited to pressure against the trial participants.
      In our opinion, the most negative example of inadequate anti-racist law enforcement was a probational sentence on a policeman in Adygeya, who attacked a group of Armenians in July 2008; in addition to our above comments concerning probation for racist crimes, this particular case was aggravated by the perpetrator being a police officer, a fact known to both victims and witnesses in the case.
      To note, in yet another case of racist violence by police (beating an Azeri at a police station in Nizhny Novgorod) the sentence passed in April 2009 failed to recognize the incident as a hate crime, even though racist pronouncements by the offenders were formally mentioned.
      Propaganda and Campaigning
      In the spring of 2009, a total of six trials resulted in eight convictions, including four probational sentences and one referral to involuntary psychiatric treatment. In addition, in spring the authorities softened (we believe, inappropriately) the punishment meted out earlier to the leader of Yakutian DPNI chapter Sergey Yurkov convicted for anti-Chinese agitation which could have resulted in massive anti-Chinese riots (his prison term was replaced by a probational sentence).
      Thus, at least 13 trials for xenophobic propaganda since the beginning of the year ended in convictions of 17 offenders, nine (i.e. half) of whom got away with probation without additional sanctions. In fact, we observe a return of the 2005-2006 sentencing practice, i.e. offenders found guilty of hate propaganda get away without substantial punishment and feel free to continue their activity.
      Of particular importance was the probational sentence meted out on 29 May 2009 to the actual (even though he had formally stepped down by the time of the trial) DPNI leader Alexander Belov. Of course, charges against him did not merit a prison term, but surprisingly, no additional sanctions – such as a ban on publications or public appearances - were imposed. [10] The sentence on Belov was part of a broader campaign against DPNI: within than six months or less, three trials of their activists ended in convictions, and at least two criminal cases are currently investigated or have been sent to court. The pressure has already reflected on DPNI's activity and popularity.
      Two sentences for vandalism taking the hate motive into account were passed in the spring of 2009. Of special significance was the trial in Achinsk (Krasnoyarsk Krai), where a series of offensive graffiti were painted on behalf of Caucasus natives, apparently to provoke ethnic clashes. It was a second trial of racist provocateurs - and we should give credit to police, prosecutors and judges for having made an adequate assessment of the public danger posed by such provocations and sentencing the vandal to a year of settlement colony.

      2.2 Other Sanctions
      In the spring of 2009, the authorities updated the list of banned extremist materials ten times, taking it from 318 to 374 items, mainly in March (42 items), with fewer items added afterwards. We can only hope that the apparent slowdown reflects a more careful approach to banning texts for extremism. It is too early for conclusions, but so far the quality of the list remains poor. Firstly, as before, it is questionable whether bans should apply to leaflets (nine items out of 56) or to texts which are not in public domain since they have never been published and/or have disappeared together with the websites which had published them. For example, the list includes an unpublished article by Nikolai Andruschenko Why We Will Join the Dissenters' March on 25 November (item 364) and Rabbi's Speech from a Samara-based Alex-Inform website, inexistent for more than four years (item 350) - not to mention that we find some of the bans totally unfounded. Secondly, no procedure has yet been established for taking materials off the banned list. However, in the spring of 2009 yet another judicial ban was quashed - Falun Dafa successfully challenged the finding of extremism. Thus, to avoid misleading the public and the police, five materials which are technically still on the banned list (item 289 and items 296-299) should be delisted, since the bans no longer apply. Roskomnadzor issued at least ten warnings to mass media over the three spring months, but we find at least half of the warnings unfounded. [11]
      Following years of litigation, Roskomnadzor finally succeeded in closing the Duel newspaper. On 19 May 2009, the Moscow City Court upheld the judgment of Zamoskvoretsky District Court of 22 December 2008 ordering closure of the paper for repeated violations of the anti-extremist legislation. To remind, the authorities made their first attempt to close Duel a few years ago, but the paper won the case in early 2008.
      In a remarkable development, the Prosecutor's Office issued an anti-extremist warning to the Khabarovsk regional chapter of United Russia's Young Guard. The Young Guard's xenophobic campaigns had provoked numerous scandals with impunity. But it was revealed in April that the Khabarovsk Prosecutor's Office had initiated proceedings before a court to find the Young Guard's anti-Krishnait leaflet extremist - and won the case. The Khabarovsk YG activists were warned against distributing the leaflet.


      3.1 Lawmaking
      Two lawmaking initiatives in the spring of 2009 sought to criminalize public display of Nazi symbols (the bill was introduced on 13 March) and "rehabilitation of Nazism" (introduced on 6 May). We find both initiatives extremely questionable.
      The former is unacceptable primarily because the offense does not merit criminal liability. Besides, the issue is already surrounded by legal uncertainty: neither the existing administrative rules, nor the proposed bill describe the exact context where a ban on Nazi symbols may apply. This uncertainty has already caused many incidents of inappropriate and even absurd enforcement (e.g. an exhibition organized by Falun Dafa was banned because of a swastika, clearly used as a religious symbol in this context; Saratovskii Reporter newspaper came under pressure for depicting Putin as fictional von Schtirlitz, etc.).
      The second bill would amend the Russian Criminal Code by adding art. 354-1 ("Rehabilitation of Nazism") which reads: "Distortions of the judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal or the judgments of any national courts or tribunals based on the judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal, having as its purpose full or partial rehabilitation of Nazism and Nazi criminals, or declaring the actions of the anti-Hitler coalition countries criminal, and also approval [of Nazism], and denial of Nazi crimes against peace and security of the humankind, committed publicly."
      The bill was apparently introduced to coincide with the establishment of a presidential commission to counteract attempts at falsification of the history. Together, the bill and the commission can be described as a highly controversial initiative, and we agree with the Memorial Human Rights Society in their assessment. [12] The proposed new article of the Criminal Code is carelessly worded; in particular, it criminalizes any statement of crimes committed by countries—members of the anti-Hitler coalition, which, as a minimum, limits historical judgment (e.g. the right to describe the Katyn massacre or the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as crimes).

      3.2 The Ban of NBP and the Anti-Extremist Enforcement
      The anti-extremist enforcement related to the ban of the National Bolshevik Party as an extremist organization is increasingly noticeable (to remind, we consider the ban unfounded, since it is based on one judicial error and two opinions of the prosecutor's office, unconfirmed by courts). In the spring of 2009 we clearly observed two trends related to the consequences of the ban.
      Firstly: many recently prosecuted NBP activists faced charges solely under art. 282-2, while it used to be just an addition to other charges a while ago. It means that now people face trial for otherwise legally permitted actions committed on behalf of the National Bolshevik Party (which, as we believe, was banned unlawfully). We know of at least six such cases - in Yekaterinburg, Samara, Khabarovsk, Yoshkar Ola, and Nizhny Novgorod Oblast.
      Secondly: the ban of NBP has clearly affected people having nothing to do with the banned party. Thus, in the spring of 2009, at least two periodicals - Permskii Obozrevatel and Viatskaia Osobaia Gazeta – were warned by Roskomnadzor for their reporting of National Bolsheviks' actions. We can assume that the warnings were based on the rule that mass media should refer to the ban every time they mention the banned organization (we find this rule controversial in and of itself). However, the law requires mentioning the banned organization (in this case NBP), but not necessarily its individual followers. Both newspapers focused on the latter without reference to the party. Nevertheless, the newspaper in Kirov was not only warned, but its editor-in-chief was fined four thousand rubles under art. 13.15 of the Code of Administrative Offenses ("abuse of the mass media freedom") for the coverage of National Bolsheviks.

      3.3 Attempts to Limit the Freedom of Conscience
      In the spring of 2009 we continued to observe inappropriate pressure against groups and individuals accused of incitement to religious hatred; we referred to it earlier as a major trend in 2008. [13]
      Thus, in the spring of 2009 Jehovah's Witnesses in Yekaterinburg continued to face pressure (to remind, they won in the first lawsuit brought against them by the Prosecutor's Office jointly with the local Orthodox Eparchy). [14] In April, the Prosecutor's Office scored a victory after three years of litigation to find extremism in Vitaly Tanakov's brochure titled Zhrets Govorit [The Priest Speaks]. In late May, a court in Moscow began to consider on the merits a case against Yuri Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev, organizers of the Banned Art exhibition.
      "Anti-extremist" charges may or may not result in punishment, but in any event they will cost the victim a lot of effort trying to get the prosecutors to lift the sanctions. For example, people in Samara finally succeeded in getting the prosecutors to stop their attempts to find extremism in a brochure about Nowruz (and the relevant website), Falun Dafa followers successfully appealed a judgment finding extremism in four materials produced by the organization. But situations continue to occur where the best potential chances of challenging unlawful demands of the government do not guarantee a victory in court, as was the case with the ban of Falun Dafa's exhibition in Novorossiysk based on their use of swastika as a religious symbol. Experience reveals that even if they had successfully challenged inappropriate actions of the law enforcement, they would not have received compensation of any damages incurred as a result of their exhibition being banned. We are not aware of a single case where specific officials were made liable for the "anti-extremist" abuse.
      Perhaps the most deplorable case of pressure against freedom of religion was a ban against the Tablighi Jamaat religious group. The ban was imposed by the Russian Supreme Court on 7 May 2009, and like all "anti-extremist" cases considered by the Supreme Court in the first instance, no grounds of the ban have been revealed and the text of the judgment has not been published.
      According to the Prosecutor General's Office, whose opinion was apparently shared by the Supreme Court, "the goals of the said religious associations are to achieve global domination through dissemination of a radical form of Islam and to establish a single Islamic state, the Universal Caliphate, on the basis of traditionally Muslim regions." However, Tablighi Jamaat has never practiced or promoted violence (at least we are not aware of any such incidents), therefore we believe the ban to be unfounded (the ban is now being challenged by our colleagues from AGORA Association).

      3.4 "Social Group" as an Instrument of Repression
      The notion of "social group" continues to be applied in an obscure fashion as an instrument of pressure against civil society activists and members of political opposition.
      Thus, in the spring of 2009 the concept of "social group" was interpreted to include "civil servants" (in Kirov Oblast), "law enforcement personnel," "military servicemen," "criminal investigators," and "police" (in various combinations) - in Kemerovo, Makhachkala, Ulan Ude, and Tyumen. In Kemerovo and Makhachkala, the cases of blogger Dmitry Solovyev and that of Chernovik paper, respectively, have been forwarded to court. In other cases, either criminal investigations or pre-investigation checks are underway. Earlier, protected "social groups" included the governments of Marii El and Tatarstan (and, incidentally, the government of China in the judgment – fortunately, overruled – banning Falun Dafa's materials). [15] We are concerned that civil society organizations have made attempts to misuse the "social group" concept to press criminal charges. Thus, members of AGORA Association demanded criminal prosecution of MP Sergey Abeltsev for incitement to hatred against human rights defenders as a social group, while journalists in St. Petersburg requested similar protection for the "media community." [16] We find such actions by civil society organizations extremely unproductive, because, in our opinion, they do nothing but perpetuate the emerging practice of anti-extremist abuse. [17]

      3.5 Other Developments
      The abovementioned negative trends fall short of covering the entire range of inappropriate anti-extremist enforcement practices. We do not attempt to cover all of the relevant episodes, but two developments need to be mentioned as trend-setting.
      The first is a judgment of 20 April 2009 by the Federal Court of Arbitrage in Moscow; the court denied an appeal of the URA.RU news agency. The news agency challenged an anti-extremist warning from Rossvyazkomnadzor for offensive comments left on the news agency's web forum. The fact that their appeal was denied defies common sense, since a web forum can hardly be considered a part of mass media outlet. The news agency now faces a possible loss of registration (in fact, the website administrator had to close the forum and thus to abandon interactive communication with their audience). Yet another web-based media resource – Rosbalt news agency - received an anti-extremist warning in spring following a similar incident.
      The second incident worth mentioning was a massive confiscation, under the pretext of sampling for compliance review, of the brochure produced by the leader of the Russian Public Movement (ROD), editor-in-chief of APN, Konstantin Krylov, entitled "Seventeen Questions to a Russian Nationalist with Answers," shortly before presentation of the brochure. The police had no legal grounds to confiscate the brochure in absence of a court ruling. In this case, unlawful sanctions have been used against members of a moderately nationalist organization. This type of police response to nationalism is not only ineffective, but actually does more harm than good. Such measures breed legal nihilism ("suppress them unlawfully, rather than fail to respond") in one part of the public and create a romantic image of "victims of the cruel regime" in another part.

      Crime and Punishment Statistics (between 2004 – July 30, 2009, Word)

      [1] See details in G. Kozhevnikova, Kak sprovotsirovat' pogrom // Grani.Ru. 2009. 28 May ( http://xeno.sova-center.ru/45A60E5/CA9D49D). [2] In their postings on ultra-right websites, neo-Nazi claimed responsibility for virtually all violent incidents reported on that day, from three killings of entrepreneurs from the Caucasus in Moscow and in the Far East (which appeared to be unrelated criminal incidents) to alleged killing of a policeman in Moscow (later denied as untrue), to a series of arson attacks (including those targeting the cars of Russian Embassy staff in Oslo, Norway), etc. To note, there were web reports of at least four more arson attacks allegedly committed on that day by neo-Nazi in Primorye, but we were not able to confirm them.
      [3] Aleksandr Sevast'ianov. Russkoe podpol'e. Real'nost', mif, perspektiva. // APN. 2009. 13 March ( http://www.apn.ru/publications/print21441.htm).
      [4] See details of the ideological differences between SRN-I and SRN-N in Radikal'nyi russkii natsionalizm: Idei, struktury, litsa. M.: SOVA Center, 2009. P. 169–173, 181–184.
      [5] Ovchinnikov Aleksei. Aleksandr Bastrykin: "Bezrabotnye gastarbaitery ob"ediniaiutsia v bandy!" // Komsomolskaia Pravda. 2009. 21 May (http://kuban.kp.ru/daily/24297.4/491818/); Babich Dmitrii. Migratsiia: son statistiki rozhdaet chudovishch // RIAN. 2009. 6 June (http://www.rian.ru/authors/20090610/173924326.html).
      [6] By insisting that a wider group of people should be held responsible for the incident, we do not by any means suggest limiting the freedom of expression per se. We are referring to responsibility for the quality of teaching in a government-controlled university (indeed, a training establishment for lawyers and law enforcement officers).
      [7] Taking into account the fact that the sentence on neo-Nazi skinheads in Cheboksary was subsequently softened.
      [8] Moreover, the police failed to notice the fact that a few days before the arrest he had sought medical attention for wounds caused by an explosion. [9] To note, we are seriously concerned about the attitudes of Izhevsk police towards neo-Nazi and anti-fascist groups in the community. Police officers openly side with the former and have fabricated cases against anti-fascists disregarding alibi evidence and using neo-Nazi activists as witnesses against their ideological opponents.
      [10] Not to mention that A. Belov had provided numerous and far more substantial reasons for criminal prosecution than a statement comparing the Seat of Government to a Torah scroll. It was clearly a case of anti-Semitic agitation, and the author personally observed a strong and coordinated aggressive reaction of the crowd to these particular words. However, ironically, the law enforcement authorities once again paid attention to anti-governmental as well as anti-Semitic statements, allowing other offensive pronouncements to go unpunished.
      [11] Unfounded, in our opinion, were the warnings issued to Rosbalt, Permski Obozrevatel', Viatskaia Osobaia Gazeta, Chernovik, and Krasnoiarskaia Gazeta. Some of these warnings are analyzed in the section Excessive and Unfounded Sanctions against Extremism of this report.
      [12] See details of the new advisory Commission of the Russian President in Zaiavlenie obshchestva "Memorial" // Polit.Ru. 2009. 25 May (http://polit.ru/institutes/2009/05/25/comiss.html).
      [13] A. Verkhovsky, G. Kozhevnikova. Inappropriate Enforcement of Anti-extremist Legislation in Russia in 2008 // SOVA Center. Nationalism and Xenophobia in Russia. 2009. 28 March (( http://xeno.sova-center.ru/29481C8/CB5956B#r3).
      [14] As it follows from the documents available to SOVA Center, legal staff of the Yekaterinburg Eparchy were involved in the preparation of the first warning.
      [15] Nevertheless, the law enforcement authorities categorically refuse to recognize members of LGBT community as a social group. LGBT activists in Tambov were once again denied a request of prosecution for homophobia. In its judgment of the 5 May 2009, the Tambov Oblast court upheld the finding of lower courts that homosexuals "cannot be regarded as a separate and defined social group" in the meaning of art. 282 of the Criminal Code. Tambovskii oblastnoi sud otklonil nadzornuiu zhalobu gei-aktivistov po delu gubernatora Olega Betina // GayRussia. 2009. 26 May (http://www.gayrussia.ru/events/detail.php?ID=13487&r1=rss&r2=yandex).
      [16] We also note a demand of St. Petersburg hockey fans to prosecute for incitement to hatred against "fans of SKA hockey team".
      [17] See details of polemics between SOVA Center and AGORA Association on our website: Nepravomernye obvineniia v adres deputata Abel'tseva// SOVA Center. Nationalism and Xenophobia in Russia. 2009. 15 April (http://xeno.sova-center.ru/89CCE27/89CD2B5/CCD3C5A); Polemika s AGOROI po ee obrashcheniiu protiv deputata Abel'tseva // Op.cit. ( http://xeno.sova-center.ru/29481C8/CCDC0E1).


      DISCLAIMER: The composition of RNB's issues does not necessarily express the compilers' views. All topical English-language texts that come to the attention of the compilers, and are related to Russian nationalism are, as far as that is technically feasible, included.
      ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The contents of RNB are compiled with the help of, among other sources, CDI's "Johnson's Russia List," Monika Kirschner's "Ost-Verteiler," Sova Center's "Xeno-News," UCSJ's "Bigotry Monitor" and "FSU Monitor," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's "Newsline," Dominique Arel's "The Ukraine List," and E. Morgan Williams's "Action Ukraine Report."
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