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Bulletin 3:36 - Special Issue: SOVA Summer '09 Report

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  • Andreas Umland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 3, No. 36(78), 28 November 2009 - Special Issue: SOVA Summer ’09 Report
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 28, 2009
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      THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN
      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 3, No. 36(78), 28 November 2009 - Special Issue: SOVA Summer ’09 Report

      “Summer 2009 - The Ultra-Right and the State: Positional Warfare”
      By Galina Kozhevnikova. Edited by Alexander Verkhovsky
      SOVA Reports and Analyses, November 26, 2009
      http://xeno.sova-center.ru/6BA2468/6BB4208/DF69CAE

      Summary
      I Manifestations of Radical Nationalism
      I.1 Violence
      I.2 Activity of the Ultra-Right Groups
      II Counteraction to Radical Nationalism
      II.1 Criminal Prosecution
      II.2 Other Developments
      II.3 The federal list of extremist materials
      III Unlawful Anti-Extremism
      III.1 Pressure on the Media
      III.2 Pressure on social activists and political opposition
      III.3 Freedom of conscience and religion
      Notes

      Appendix: Crime and Punishment Statistics between 2004 and November 26, 2009 (Word Document) http://sova-center.ru/files/xeno/stats-eng-09-11-26.doc

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      SUMMARY

      Similarly to the previous year, the summer months did not bring calm. Racist and neo-Nazi violence was the same as the summer of 2008, both in the number of victims and the geographic scope.
      Ultra-right groups were busy engaging in self-promotion, trying to solve a number of organizational issues, and provoking a xenophobic hysteria by using "the Kondopoga technique."
      Equally visible were the state's efforts to suppress this activity. The increasingly consistent prosecution of racist violence was accompanied by improved quality of the legal qualification of offenses; the number of convictions for racist and ideologically motivated vandalism reached a historical maximum (five) in summer. In contrast, the prosecution of racist propaganda still leaves much to be desired: firstly, even though the overall number of convictions is high, the majority of convicted offenders are rank-and-file members or solo activists, rather than leaders or ideologists, and secondly, punishment for xenophobic propaganda is limited to probation in most cases.
      Important milestones in combating racist violence were two civil lawsuits, where the courts ordered substantial compensations to be paid to victims of neo-Nazi violence. Eventually, we expect this practice to undermine the system of mutual financial support among the ultra-right.
      Excessive anti-extremist enforcement, as before, continued in all areas, including attacks on the freedom of conscience, persecution of mass media, and pressure on civil society activists. However, there was a fundamentally important development in this area in the summer of 2009, when the Russian Supreme Court passed a ruling likely to protect the media from the threat of summary closures under the pretext of combating extremism.
      -----------------------


      I MANIFESTATIONS OF RADICAL NATIONALISM

      I.1 Violence

      In the summer of 2009, racist and neo-Nazi incidents were reported in 15 Russian regions (including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Volgograd, Vladimir, Kaluga, Kirov, Maikop, Omsk, Petrozavodsk, Rostov-on-the-Don, Samara, Stavropol, Ufa, and Ulan-Ude). At least 91 people were injured, including ten who were killed (in the summer of 2008, at least 90 people were injured, 15 of them killed, in 20 Russian regions). In the first 8 months of 2009, at least 44 people were killed and at least 247 were injured (86 killed and 332 injured in the first eight months of 2008). [1] It is clear that the overall number of victims has dropped, but the intensity of violence was about the same in the summers of 2008 and 2009.
      As before, public access to timely information on racist crimes is limited, judging by the substantial updates on the past years' casualties, [2] and the fact that reports of a few recent crimes came to light only because the suspects got arrested.
      Multiple recent arrests of the neo-Nazi partially explain the drop in casualties; another reason is the ultra-radicals' shift of focus: some of them have switched to subversive and terrorist activity targeting mainly government agencies, and such attacks usually result in fewer victims. Many ultra-right websites routinely report blast and arson attacks against police stations, government buildings, retail stores and other sites. In the summer of 2009 alone, the neo-Nazi assumed responsibility for arson attacks in Moscow against the Prosecutorial Investigative Committee office in Kuntsevo, police cars in Ryazansky District Police, and two retail stores in Moscow, and a retail store in Vladivostok. One report out of two published on the ultra-right websites is untrue and intended for self-promotion. However, in an ever increasing number of cases, arrested ultra-right activists face charges of actual arson and blast attacks. An underaged neo-Nazi offender arrested in mid-August in Moscow is suspected of at least five of such attacks. In addition, law enforcement authorities report having arrested members of violent gangs, including the Zhikhareva and Barshelutskov gang arrested in early 2009 and suspected of at least six blast attacks, and the Tamamshev gang whose core members were arrested in the summer of 2008. There are certainly other violent groups which have not been apprehended yet.
      One particularly high-profile incident was the racist raid of Georgyevsk, Stavropol Krai, on 3 June 2009, where a dozen aggressive young men walked the city streets in broad daylight, attacking random passers-by who appeared "non-Slavic" to the attackers. At least three people were seriously injured. A subsequent investigation revealed that the raiders had been prepared to commit arson attacks and other violent acts (bottles of inflammable liquid, iron bars, and facemasks were found and confiscated from them).
      Traditionally, more casualties of xenophobic violence are reported in summer due primarily to the Navy Day celebration. We know that at least one person was killed ant at least six were injured on the Navy Day (2 August) in 2009, plus two mass fights were reported in Nizhny Novgorod and in the Moscow suburbs.
      As before, the safety of civil society activists who oppose the ultra-right is under threat. On 31 July 2009, Maxim Yefimov, leader of the Youth Human Rights Group chapter in Karelia, was attacked in Petrozavodsk in what is believed to be retaliation for his anti-fascist activism.
      In mid-July, Konstantin Baranov, leader of the Young Europe youth NGO chapter in Rostov, received a series of phone calls and letters with personal threats from some neo-Nazi. The Young Europe NGO's page on the V Kontakte social network came under a spam attack by the neo-Nazi. Konstantin Baranov is certain that the attacks were triggered by his group's active opposition to the ultra-right's music concerts in his city.
      In early September, the Moscow Human Rights Bureau received similar threats.
      Vandalism
      Between June and August 2009, at least 22 acts of vandalism were reported in 13 Russian regions; the vandals' racist and neo-Nazi motives were obvious in all cases. Consistent with a trend we reported earlier this year, incidents of "ideological vandalism" prevailed, such as destruction of the World War II memorials and graffiti on Lenin's monuments, etc., in eight[3] out of the 22 reported incidents. Five attacks each targeted Jewish and Orthodox Christian buildings, two attacks targeted Muslim buildings, and one each targeted Armenian and Protestant sites. In four cases, attacks against places of worship were accompanied by arson attempts (Orthodox Christian, Muslim and Jewish sites), and in one incident, windows were smashed in a Jewish Cultural Center.
      In total since the beginning of 2009, at least 62 incidents of hate-related vandalism (including seven arson attacks) were reported, of which 22 may be described as "ideological" vandalism, 15 were anti-Semitic, 12 were anti-Orthodox, five were anti-Muslim, three each targeted various Protestant denominations and Armenian centers, and one each targeted a Roman Catholic building and Jehovah's Witnesses premises.
      The above list does not include attacks against government buildings: during the first eight months of 2009 there were at least five confirmed reports of arson attacks against police stations, prosecutors' offices, etc., likely to have been committed by the ultra-right.

      I.2 Activity of the Ultra-Right Groups

      Self-promotion and provocation of riots
      Against the background of the traditional summer lull, DPNI's aggressive self-promotion based on provoking riots was particularly noticeable.
      DPNI went to great lengths to take advantage of an incident in Znamensk (Astrakhan region) on July 19. A criminal brawl (in fact, a territorial clash between two gangs) was first presented as a brutal beating of two dozen Russians by 300 Chechens (even though no more than 150 people are estimated to have been involved on both sides[4]). DPNI has become a major source of information on this incident, adding new details to it all the time: first they claimed that there were three fights rather than one; then they alleged a higher number of deaths and spread rumors about severed fingers and other "atrocities committed by the Chechens."
      However, these efforts were unsuccessful, despite the fact that the information has been reproduced in numerous right-wing blogs.
      Similarly unsuccessful was another obvious provocation concerning the alleged "conversion of Russian soldiers in the Aleisk Infantry Division." The incident began with a statement by the organization of Soldiers' Mothers of Dagestan reporting a mass beating of young recruits from the Caucasus; available evidence suggested that the beating took place with the knowledge of commanders. [5] Top-ranking commanders of the Division initially denied any fighting or beating and later denied any racist motives behind the incident. Just a day or two after the incident was widely reported, an explicitly xenophobic, anti-Caucasian letter was published on the internet. Although even a casual reader would immediately doubt the authenticity of the document, the initiative was immediately seized by the Russian nationalists, and their perspective was immediately reported by various actors, including the Russian mainstream media known for their close links to the ultra-right.
      But the most striking example of DPNI taking full advantage of a tense situation was the extremely crude shutdown of Cherkizovsky market in Moscow. DPNI was the first political group that almost immediately began to play up the sentiments of Muscovites concerned about the migration of the ousted Cherkizovo traders to other markets and shopping centers in Moscow. It is difficult to say how successful DPNI's attempts to take the lead in social protest in the Moscow district of Lublino have been, but DPNI activists and Nazi-skinheads are regular participants of local residents' meetings and other protests. One of the websites reporting on the issue appears to be controlled by DPNI; their forums have attempted to spread rumors of massive rapes allegedly committed in the local shopping center.
      Public activism
      Two national scale campaigns were organized in summer, including an anti-abortion campaign on the International Day of the Child, and the Day of Solidarity with Right-Wing Political Prisoners. Both were initiated by the Russkiy Obraz (RO). The geography of the campaigns reveals that RO - a group which was hardly visible just two years ago - is now rapidly penetrating the Russian regions by partnering up with and/or swallowing other neo-Nazi and ultra-right groups. In fact, they follow the same pattern in their development as DPNI did a while ago.
      Their first action was held on the night of 31 May to 1 June. Most activities[6] consisted of graffiti-painting. Certain graffiti denounced abortions in an abstract and general manner, while some others were explicitly racist (Let Us Save the Lives of White Children). Besides Moscow, the ultra-right from at least 10 regions took part in the action. [7]
      The second action had a higher profile and a broader scale. On 25-26 July a Day of Assistance to the Right-Wing Political Prisoners and Days of Slavic Sobriety were held (beside Moscow, various actions were at held at least in 12 other regions). The activities were diverse, including a presentation of a film made by RO's activists, a display of banners, concerts, stickers, graffiti, training courses in street fighting and the use of firearms.
      A widely reported incident was the beating of two policemen during a football match between Lokomotiv and Dynamo. The police attempted to confiscate a neo-Nazi solidarity banner, but were beaten by the fans (we note that the police did not provoke the fight, contrary to what the ultra-right allege).
      However, the main objective of the action was not to demonstrate the group's capacity (although it was impressive), but to engage in fundraising for various purposes of the organization, including aid to imprisoned racists. RO claim having collected 120 thousand rubles during these two days. Even if the figure is exaggerated, it is impossible not to notice how skillfully they are building the image of an influential organization.
      Organizing
      While RO focused on extending its activities in the regions this summer, its competitor DPNI focused mainly on the preparation and holding of the second All-Russia Congress. It was held on 11 July 2009 and demonstrated a sharp decline in their membership. [8] Vladimir Ermolaev was elected Chairman of the organization's National Council. But his leadership is notional rather than real. Firstly, despite Alexander Belov's resignation from leadership positions in DPNI, he clearly continues to be considered by members of the organization as their real leader who keeps a low profile temporarily due to constraints associated with his criminal prosecution. Secondly, judging by the organization's website, Vladimir (Tor) Kralin is their main public spokesman. A few days after the DPNI Congress, the Pamyat National Patriotic Front (NPF) held its convention (or rather, an interregional conference) chaired by Georgy Borovikov. Representatives of the organization refused to disclose any substantive results of the conference, citing fears of reprisals, but there is one visible change: the abbreviation "NPF" is gradually replaced by another acronym - "RFO" - but it is unclear what it stands for.
      Start of the Moscow City Duma election campaign
      Electoral ambitions of the "non-systemic" ultra-right totally failed before the elections to the Moscow City Duma. Anyway, the ambitions cannot have been serious in the first place, since the elections are totally controlled by the Moscow authorities. Nevertheless, a few groups made public their electoral ambitions as a sort of self-promotion. The most well-known ultra-right nominees included Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov charged with attempting to murder Anatoly Chubais and DPNI's formal leader Vladimir Yermolayev. Sergey Baburin's Russian Popular Union that had voluntarily abandoned their status as a political party back in December 2008 attempted to get their party list registered for the elections, but understandably failed. However, the "systemic" political parties consistently relying on xenophobic propaganda - CPRF and LDPR - continued to use this resource. In particular, in August 2009, print media of both parties published xenophobic (and even openly racist) texts. [9]
      The ultra-right in other Russian regions tried to use the election campaign for self-promotion as well. In particular, we should mention the action held by the Union of Slavs of the Far East. On 30 and 31 July 2009 in Vladivostok, their activists wearing T-shirts with symbols of the United Russia Party, put up posters advertising the organization all over the city. The action was announced as part of the election campaign: the organization led by Alexander Komarov - who faces trial since June 2009 on charges of inciting hatred - declared an intention to nominate candidates for election to the city's municipal assembly. However, the nomination of candidates from USFE never took place.
      Other developments
      Back in the spring we noted a rebuilding of contacts between the ultra-right and Eduard Limonov's National Bolsheviks. Their increasing cooperation continued in summer, although part of the NBP would not accept it. This is particularly evident in the discussions that unfolded around the publication of an interview with the leader of the ultra-right "Resistance" Roman Zentsov, a former mix fighter. The interview posted on the National Bolsheviks' website was shunned by part of their audience who would not accept the group's explicit ethno-nationalist bias. Note that the interview clearly reflected the reporters' sympathies for the interviewee and for his organization and did not mention his collaboration with the neo-Nazi.
      In Krasnoyarsk, the National Bolsheviks engaged in joint activities with the local ultra-right-led Movement against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), and on 11 July in Moscow NBP representatives attended DPNI's congress as "guests."
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      II Counteraction to Radical Nationalism

      II.1 Criminal Prosecution

      Violence
      In the summer of 2009, at least 16 trials ended in convictions of 46 people for violent crimes taking into account the hate motive, and this is probably the most productive season across all years of observations. Out of the total, two sentences each were handed down in Moscow, Novosibirsk, and Voronezh, one each in Altai Krai, Belgorod, Volgograd, Ekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk, Kostroma, Nizhny Novgorod, Great Novgorod, St. Petersburg, and Tver.
      Once again, it is worth emphasizing a significant improvement in the quality of the prosecution: only one (!) sentence of the mentioned 16 relied on art 282 of the Criminal Code to take account of the hate motive. The rest qualified the hate motives as aggravating circumstances of relevant violent crimes.
      In total, during the first eight months of 2009, at least 31 trials ended in convictions of 85 people for violent crimes taking into account the hate motive.
      Penalties were as follows:
      • 3 persons were released from punishment following conciliation of the parties;
      • 3 were released from punishment following expiry of the statute of limitations;
      • 19 received suspended sentences without additional sanctions;
      • 6 were sentenced to correctional work;
      • 1 was referred to compulsory treatment;
      • 7 were sentenced to prison terms between 2 and 3 years;
      • 11 - 3 to 5 years;
      • 10 - 5 to 10 years;
      • 7 - 10 to 15 years of prison;
      • 3 - 17 to 19 years of prison;
      • 1 person was sentenced to 23 years of prison.
      For some defendants in three trials involving many defendants, prison terms are unknown. In the first case, four persons were sentenced to terms ranging from 7.5 to 11 years; in the second case, six people were sentenced to terms ranging from 3.5 to 10 years; and in the third case, four people were sentenced to terms ranging from 14 to 17 years of prison.
      We should note a few particular sentences, remarkable each in their own way.
      On 22 June 2009, the Altai Regional Court issued a guilty verdict in the case of Odin's Wolves, a group of Nazi skinheads responsible for a dozen of violent racist attacks in Barnaul. This is one of the few verdicts issued outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, where a group of defendants (in this case, seven people) faced trial, and where the investigators and the court found, inter alia, that the group was an organized and sustainable neo-Nazi community (they also faced charges under art. 282-1 of the Criminal Code). The sentences are also worth noting: five convicted offenders were sentenced to prison terms ranging between 9.5 and 23 years, while the two offenders who received suspended sentences are unlikely to return to the neo-Nazi environment, since their punishment was mitigated in exchange for active cooperation with the investigation, which was widely publicized.
      In contrast, a court in Volgograd contributed to the list of the longest trials of racist murders. On 17 August 2009, the Volgograd Regional Court sentenced a group of nine people for an attack against a gypsy camp in the town of Volzhsky in the spring of 2006. We remind the readers that two people were killed and several more were injured in the attack, but the attackers were apprehended almost immediately. Nevertheless, the investigation and the trial lasted more than three years. This is the second trial for racist violence ending in convictions in the Volgograd region. The previous trial lasted for two years, ending in 2005.
      Meanwhile, lengthy judicial proceedings in cases involving more than one offender may cause serious problems. Not all members of neo-Nazi groups may be involved in serious crimes (or at least their involvement may not always be proved), and statutes of limitations on lighter offenses may be shorter than the duration of investigation and trial. In particular, expired statute of limitations caused the criminal prosecution against five members of the Borovikov-Voevodin gang for their first crime committed in 2003 to be dropped, and it is unknown how it may influence the final punishment for members of what we believe to be the most prominent neo-Nazi gang today.
      But the most scandalous was the judgment issued by the Novosibirsk Regional Court on 26 June 2009 in a trial for the murder of a Turkish citizen. Four defendants faced trial for a gang murder motivated by hatred, but the court found only one of them guilty and fully acquitted the other three. Meanwhile, as far as we know, the defendants did not deny their involvement in the attack. We can assume that there was only one fatal blow (and, accordingly, only one the murderer), but it remains a mystery why the court chose to acquit the other attackers rather than bring different charges against them. The sentence was challenged by the prosecutor.
      Vandalism
      In the summer of 2009, one person was sentenced for vandalism motivated by religious hatred: on 13 July a court in Ivanovo Region convicted an offender who had vandalized Muslim graves two years earlier. Since he already had a conditional conviction for extortion, his total penalties combined amounted to 4.5 years of prison.
      In total since the beginning of the year four trials ended in convictions of five people for various acts of hate-motivated vandalism. [10] It is a historical maximum of sentencing for such crimes.
      Propaganda
      At least 12 sentences were handed down in the summer of 2009 for xenophobic propaganda and acts of vandalism, qualified under art. 282 of the Criminal Code (two in Arkhangelsk and Khabarovsk, [11] one each in Birobidzhan, Vladimir, Yekaterinburg, Kemerovo, Krasnodar, Murmansk, Omsk[12] and Orenburg). These sentences were handed down to 18 people, nine of whom received suspended sentences without additional sanctions, e.g. got away virtually unpunished. In general, the proportion of conditional sentences for such crimes since the beginning of the year is very high: 18 of the 36 people convicted in 25 trials were sentenced to probation or released from punishment. This is the highest rate of probations in the recent history of relatively consistent anti-racist enforcement in Russia.
      It is unclear to what extent this practice is justified. On the one hand, many convicted offenders (both in summer and since the beginning of the year) are graffitists or members of online forums. In particular, of the 18 people convicted in the summer of 2009, five were sentenced (including three probational sentences) for graffiti not involving desecration of religious sites, and yet another person was convicted for offensive postings to an online forum. Of those convicted in the summer of 2009 for incitement to hatred, the only significant figure was Pavel Onoprienko, leader of the Union of Russian People, Khabarovsk chapter, who received a suspended sentence.
      Thus, the overall pattern of penalties for xenophobic propaganda in summer clearly shows that to date, art. 282 is used to suppress consequences, rather than causes of neo-Nazi graffiti or offensive statements in online forums. Those who end up being prosecuted for propaganda are minor offenders randomly targeted by the law enforcement, rather than those who engage in hate propaganda consistently or in a particularly dangerous form (e.g. calls to violent actions). Understandably, imprisonment would be an excessive punishment for minor offenses.
      On the other hand, as long as the authorities choose to prosecute minor hate offenders, why do they let the defendants get away without any punishment other than imprisonment? A suspended sentence, as we have noted on many occasions, can only stop accidental offenders, rather than those who consistently and by choice engage in a certain type of criminal activity and accept associated risks; the majority of the convicted hate offenders belong to the latter category.
      We note that the authorities do not imprison hate promoters too often: virtually all offenders sentenced to real punishments (seven out of nine) were sentenced to correctional work, while the two offenders sentenced to prison terms (for an attack against a synagogue in Orenburg) were on probation at the time of the crime, which explains the choice of tougher punishments.
      Another sentence under art. 280 of the Criminal Code for xenophobic propaganda was meted out last summer to Yury Mukhin, editor in chief of the Duel newspaper closed in May 2009. He also got away with a suspended sentence without any additional sanctions

      II.2 Other Developments

      We believe that the most important development in the summer of 2009 were two civil lawsuits in Izhevsk resulting in awards of compensation to victims of attacks by neo-Nazis. The murderers of Izhevsk skater Stanislav Korepanov have been ordered by court to pay his mother a million rubles, and Alexander Krinitsyn charged with beating a young woman anti-fascist has been ordered to pay her 30 thousand rubles.
      These are the first awards of compensation in this type of cases that we know of. Besides the fact that victims are entitled to monetary compensation of moral and physical damage, we find this practice important for yet another reason: it is likely to undermine the financial support available to accused and convicted ultra-right offenders. It is one thing to raise money to help a "comrade-in-arms" and quite another to fundraise for paying damages to the victim. In addition, the financial obligations of the convicted person to the injured party make it difficult for them to be released on parole, and impose certain restrictions once they are released.
      Other types of enforcement tools were also used to suppress ultra-right activists and their propaganda, including fines for displaying Nazi symbols, seizure of extremist materials from newsstands and bookstores, and administrative penalties for dissemination of such materials on the internet.
      It is worth mentioning in particular that in August the Magistrate Court of Novgorod Region did not only fine a local resident under article 20.3 of the Administrative Code ("Public display of Nazi paraphernalia or symbols"), but also ordered him to have the offensive Nazi tattoo on the back of his palm removed.

      II.3 The federal list of extremist materials

      The Federal list of extremist materials continues to pose problems.
      In the summer of 2009, it was updated nine (!) times. During this time, items from 375 to 414 were added to the list (the actual number of banned materials is much greater because some of the items are lists of titles). Thus, as of 31 August 2009, the list includes 414 items, 15 of which are duplicated (or even triplicated) since they have been added to the list two or three times, and five items have since been found non-extremist and should technically be removed from the banned list.
      The quality of the list deteriorates as quickly as the list is growing. It is not only and not so much about the new texts being added to the list (intuitively it is clear that a significant portion of the summer additions are radical neo-Nazi and xenophobic materials), but about the use of the list for reference.
      Six of the 40 items added to the list in summer are leaflets, one is a duplicate of a text already on the list, and at least 12 items cannot be identified. The most controversial recent addition was item 414 - an unsystematic list of titles apparently seized on a search from some Nazi-skinheads; most of the titles are clearly not for distribution, but for personal use only. Most strikingly, one of the added items is described as "a flag with a cross" without any more details. Technically it means that since December 2008 (the date of adjudication) all flags with crosses on them are banned in Russia without exception. [13]
      It has not been established when liability for distributing extremist materials starts. The only existing case (the Ezhaev case) suggests that liability starts on the date the relevant judgment enters into force. But it often happens that the effective date of the judgment is not available, while the entry of materials in the banned list may be delayed for periods ranging from several months to a year and a half. In particular, the materials published in Russkaya Pravda and banned in December 2007 made in to the federal list on 5 August 2009. Certain books by Yuri Petukhov were found extremist even earlier - in February 2007 - but have not been added to the list yet.
      -----------------------

      III Unlawful Anti-Extremism

      Unlawful anti-extremist enforcement practices continue in all possible areas.
      As before, we cannot say that the state always wins in anti-extremist proceedings. For example, Falun Gong followers have been successful in their legal fight against the prosecutor's office trying to have some of their texts banned as extremist. A scandalous anti-extremist warning issued to the Two By Two TV channel for broadcasting a South Park Cartoon Wars episode was eventually quashed. The Prosecutor's Office refused to open a criminal investigation against environmentalist in Krasnoyarsk accused of extremism by RusHydro Company for protests against the construction of Evenkiysky Hydro Power Station.
      However, a formal closure of anti-extremist proceedings does not mean that a person will cease to have problems associated with the case. For example, this summer in St. Petersburg a former suspect accused of an assassination attempt against Mayor Valentina Matvienko, but fully acquitted by a jury, was nevertheless turned down by a bank once he applied for a credit card; in denying him the service, the bank referred to the anti-extremist legislation. Apparently, the name of the young man was still on the official list of organizations and individuals suspected of extremism (the list is maintained by the Russian Financial Monitoring Agency and sent out to banks). Yet legally, the bank was not supposed to turn down the customer. [14]
      On the one hand, isolated examples of successful opposition to unlawful anti-extremist enforcement do not affect the general trend, and on the other hand, we are not aware of any cases where state agents have been punished for such practices. Meanwhile, the impunity of anti-extremist abuse and the unacceptably broad interpretation of the already fuzzy legislation have produced a few remarkably absurd cases. In particular, on 18 June 2009 the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, having reviewed compliance with the Federal Law on Countering Extremist Activity, made a submission to the Minister of Health and Social Development Tatyana Golikova. The prosecutors found that foreign labor quotas were excessively high and "contributed to extremism by taking jobs away from Russians and creating conditions for inter-ethnic conflicts." They also found elements of extremism in the country's imperfect system of alternative civil service for conscientious objectors to military duty.

      III.1 Pressure on the Media

      During the summer of 2009 Roskomnadzor issued at least six anti-extremist warnings. In total since the beginning of 2009 there have been at least 19 such warnings. It appears, however, that even the agency is not happy with its own performance. A semi-annual report issued by Roskomnadzor in August 2009 admitted that eight warnings were "unfounded". Of the remaining 11[15] at least one was successfully challenged in court, and at least four others appear to be clearly unlawful or simply absurd.
      As an example of inappropriate enforcement without any political overtones, a warning was issued in early June to Smolenskie Gubernskie Vedomosti for "demonstration of the swastika". A photo illustrating their essentially anti-Nazi article (about a neo-Nazi offender sentenced for posting xenophobic materials on the web) showed two people in front of a computer watching the infamous video Execution of a Tajik and a Dagestani against the backdrop of a Nazi flag.
      Novaya Gazeta in St. Petersburg (warned for airing anti-Georgian statements by a DPNI activist) and the URA.Ru news agency punished for postings on their readers' forum lost their appeals of the anti-extremist warnings.
      Novaya Gazeta's appeal was rejected on formal grounds. The editorial board appealed to the Court of Arbitrage rather than a regular court, following a somewhat illogical, but well-established practice. However, the CoA refused to hear the case, pointing out that the matter was outside their jurisdiction. Meanwhile, the editorial office missed the deadline for appeal in a court of general jurisdiction. Their subsequent attempts to appeal were unsuccessful as well. In contrast, URA.Ru lost in three instances of the CoA (for some reason, the issue of jurisdiction was not raised). Having lost their final appeal in court, the news agency then appealed to the Presidium of the Supreme Court of Arbitrage challenging the jurisdiction of CoA in this type of disputes and asking for clarification. On 17 July 2009, the Supreme Court of Arbitrage admitted the appeal for consideration, and on 6 October they sent the case back to the first instance court to decide on the jurisdiction of the dispute (why the matter could not be resolved by the Presidium is unclear).
      We note an important Supreme Court ruling issued in the summer of 2009 with implications for anti-extremist pressure on the media. The ruling concerned an appeal against the closure of Pamyat - Novosibirsk paper following two anti-extremist warnings by Roskomnadzor. The Supreme Court noted that the second warning was issued for a publication which preceded the first warning. That is, the newspaper could not have complied with the warning even if they wanted to (the court did not question the legality of the warnings, though). However, the court proceeded from the premise that a warning is a preventive measure, which is not intended to facilitate liquidation of a media outlet, but rather to point out any deficiencies that the editors are presumed to ignore and discourage further violations. Thus, the second warning should be considered not just a second consecutive warning, but a warning triggered by any materials published after the editors received the first warning and had an opportunity to comply, but failed to do so.
      This ruling of the Supreme Court will put an end to arbitrary imposition of several warnings in a row, which is openly used to exert political pressure on the media (in particular, three warnings were issued in this manner to Novy Peterburg and two warnings to Saratovsky Reporter.) [16]

      III.2 Pressure on social activists and political opposition

      Persecution of the banned National Bolshevik Party members merely for their membership in the organization continues. (This practice is formally legal under art. 282-2 of the Criminal Code; yet, we continue to find the persecution unlawful, since the NBP was banned on insufficient grounds). Thus, in the summer of 2009 at least three criminal cases were referred to the court under art. 282-2, without any additional charges.
      The past summer featured a series of scandalous attempts to prosecute civil society activists who unlike the National Bolsheviks simply could not be suspected of extremism.
      An event with great repercussions was the arrest in Ufa of a group of authors whose texts had been published on the website of Ufa Gubernskaia oppositional to President Murtaza Rakhimov of Bashkortostan; in March 2009 the texts were found extremist (in our opinion, the judgment was unfounded). Five people, among them Ildar Gabdrafikov, senior fellow at the Center for Ethnological Studies, Ufa Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, were arrested on 4 August on charges of inciting hatred, calls for extremist activity, as well as participation in an extremist community. According to a detainee's relative, prosecutors found a crime in certain comments to the texts left on the news agency's web forum, rather than in the texts per se. A few days later, almost all detainees were released from custody under recognizance not to leave or placed under house arrest. The investigation is ongoing. (Notably, regular authors of Ufa Gubernskayia were charged in connection with the publication of the Voiny Protiv Ubliudkov (Warriors against Bastards) brochure by Airat Dilmuhametov, a Bashkir nationalist and radical Islamist; actually they published an opponent, since Ufa Gubernskaya is known for its criticism of Bashkir nationalism).
      The second shocking incident concerned criminal proceedings under part 1 of art. 280 of the Criminal Code brought against Igor Averkiev, a well-known civil society activist in Perm, for an article entitled "Let's Leave the Caucasus and Become Free and Strong." The publication also triggered proceedings of finding the text extremist. Averkiev's language - extremely sharp and politically incorrect - reproduced, by and large, certain statements dating back to the second Chechen war (1999-2000). The author concludes that Russia should consider peaceful secession of the North Caucasus. Probably, the FSB initiated proceedings because they perceived a threat to Russia's territorial integrity.
      The third significant episode began in the late spring and ended (for now) at the end of September 2009; it was an attempt to liquidate the Novorossiysk Human Rights Committee (NHRC) led by Tamara and Vadim Karastelyov on "anti-extremist" grounds. On 21 May 2009 the city prosecutor's office simultaneously issued a citation, a caution and a warning to Tamara Karastelyova urging her to refrain from extremist activity. The overreaction (never before have the three types of warnings been ��" nor should they be - issued simultaneously concerning the same episode) was caused by the fabricated charges against NHRC for allegedly inciting underaged school students to participate in a rally against the "children's curfew" introduced in Krasnodar Krai. The prosecutor's case against the NHRC is remarkable in two respects. Firstly, the prosecutor openly referred to a letter from the city authorities containing routine political accusations against the NHRC for acting against the interests of their home region and accepting Western money. Secondly, their "extremism" was deduced from an attempt to stage a peaceful protest against the adoption of certain legislation (they were accused of obstructing government activity); the case was widely reported, particularly the interpretation of a famous phrase "Freedom is not something that can be given. Freedom is something people take" as an extremist slogan. [17] Less unusual was that the experts hired by the prosecutor's office included a researcher who had defended the famous antisemitist Viktor Korchagin; the said expert referred, inter alia, to the famous "Dulles Plan" forgery.
      The organization's attempts to appeal the anti-extremist sanctions failed, and in September the prosecutors asked the court to close the organization. The case had public resonance in and outside Russia. As a result, the Prosecutor's Office dropped the case on formal grounds on 30 September 2009.

      III.3 Freedom of conscience and religion

      The summer of 2009 was marked by coordinated and massive anti-extremist persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses. Their offices across Russia were subjected to numerous checks and inspections.
      In the Sverdlovsk region, an earlier anti-extremist warning to JW in the city of Asbest was reconfirmed once again after being invalidated by court (the warning was based on an expert's opinion that the JW's religious doctrine was different from the Orthodox doctrine); at the same time, criminal proceedings were resumed under art. 282 against the leader of the JW community in Asbest.
      JW in Rostov Region faced anti-extremist sanctions in several districts, including Kalitva, Rostov-on-Don, Zverevo (warnings), Novoshakhtinsk, Egorlyksky District (cautions), Taganrog (the organization and more than three dozen texts were found extremist[18]), Salsk ( materials found to be extremist).
      In addition, the Supreme Court's ruling of 7 May 2009 which banned Tablighi Jamaat as an extremist international religious organization came into force on July 31. The AGORA Human Rights Association challenged the ruling but lost. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court's verdict that could explain the reason behind the ban has not yet been published. Nevertheless, the unpublished ruling is being enforced: in August 2009 the organization's book Values of Tabligh was banned and there is no doubt that it will be followed by other texts.
      -----------------

      NOTES
      [1] As usual, our numbers do not include victims of mass fights and incidents in the North Caucasus.
      [2] Compared to data available in January 2009, the number of victims affected in 2008 was later updated from 465 to 584, i.e. increased by more than 25% (including an increase of reported death from 87 to 109, i.e. by 13%).
      [3] Two nationwide graffiti actions, each involving at least ten Russian regions, were registered as two episodes.
      [4] Apparently, the "300 Chechens" emerged from an emotional description of the events by some participants from the Russian side: "Dozens of cars were crawling down the hill... Crowds of people came out - maybe a hundred, maybe three hundred." D. Sokolov-Mitrich. Kondopoga na skoruiu ruku.//Izvestia. 2009. 13 August ( http://www.izvestia.ru/special/article3131781/).
      [5] Those who described the conflict quoted some of the commanders; the racist nature of the beatings was clear from the quotes.
      [6] The only exception was Izhevsk: the neo-Nazi claim that they successfully held a picket there.
      [7] Kaluga Oblast, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Rostov-on-the-Don, Izhevsk, Archangelsk, St. Petersburg, Perm, Pskov, Great Novgorod, and Krasnodar Krai.
      [8] See details in: Moscow hosted the second Congress of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration / / SOVA Center. Nationalism and xenophobia in Russia. 2009. 22 July (http://xeno.sova-center.ru/45A29F2/D4E8DC8).
      [9] See details in: Moscow City Duma candidates and xenophobia: who will and who will not go to elections // Ibid. 2009. 14 September (http://xeno.sova-center.ru/29481C8/D95BB2F); LDPR: Open Season for election xenophobic propaganda// Ibid. 2009. 22 August (http://xeno.sova-center.ru/45A29F2/D4E8DC8).
      [10] Refers to art. 214 and 244 of the Russian Criminal Code
      [11] One sentence each in Arkhangelsk and Khabarovsk were on two counts, under art. 282 and 280.
      [12] Under art. 282-2.
      [13] See details In Kozhevnikova G. Ekh, ekh, bez kresta! // Grani.Ru. 2009. 20 August (http://grani.ru/Society/Xenophobia/m.155836.html).
      [14] Art. 7, part. 2 of the Federal AML/CTF Law allows credit institutions to refuse opening a bank account to a customer should the bank receive information in accordance with this Federal Law that the person in question is involved in terrorist activity. A procedure for obtaining this information is detailed in art. 6, part 2 of the same law and refers to an effective verdict or to ongoing criminal proceedings on charges of terrorism. Neither of these criteria fit the individual in question who was fully acquitted and released in the courtroom.
      [15] Nine were issued between January and July, and two more between July and August 2009.
      [16] Warnings issued by the territorial offices of Rossvyazohrankultury to mass media editors for violations of art. 4 of the Russian Law on Mass Media //Roskomnadzor official website (http://rsoc.ru/docs/20080117170841td.do); archives of the SOVA Center.
      [17] Incidentally, the slogan was not even used during the picket referred to by the Prosecutor's Office, which was clearly indicated in FSB's letter.
      [18] The prosecutor's request was satisfied on 11 September 2009.
      ===========================

      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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