Fearful that returning veterans of Russia’s aggression in the Donbas may join forces with radical Russian nationalists, the Kremlin is moving to prevent that outcome by subordinating or eliminating some of the radical Russian nationalist groups it had earlier supported or at least tolerated, according to Aleksandr Verkhovsky.
The SOVA Center expert says that one indication of that is the opposition of the authorities to a Russia March of the kind that has taken place on November 4th in the past and an attempt by them to create “an alternative” version of that march under the control of Rodina and its youth group, the Rodina Tigers.
Verkhovsky’s comment comes in the course of a discussion by RBC’s Vyacheslav Kozlov concerning the likelihood that there will not be a Russian March this year because of divisions among nationalists about Ukraine, the arrests of many of them, and the fear of others that they would be face repression if they went ahead with their plans.
This year, Dmitry Demushkin, the head of the Russians movement, says that he plans to conduct the Russian March under the slogan “For the rights and freedom of the Russian people.” If he gets approval, this would be the 11th such march, but so far, officials have not responded to his permit application, and other officials have signaled that when it comes it will be negative.
The ten earlier marches have attracted from 5,000 to 10,000 participants, including representatives of “practically all radical right and patriotic Russian parties and movements,” including the Movement Against Illegal Immigration and the Slavic Union, both of which are now banned, the Russians, Narodnaya Volya, the church banner carriers and the Cossacks.
Until 2014, the organizers of the Russian March had no problems gaining registration, but with the launch of the war in Ukraine and the appearance of divisions among Russian nationalists, that changed; and the authorities rejected all permit applications by these groups and began to harass and then arrest their leaders.
“The Russian authorities who then were actively promoting the idea of a nationalist putsch in Kyiv in the media equated participants of the Russian Marches with fascists,” Demushkin says, “and did not want to agree to [the march] in order that they not be accused of hypocrisy.”
The Moscow city government did offer to Vladimir Kralin, the leader of the unregistered National Democratic Party, the opportunity to organize the march last year and this, but Kralin, concerned that if he agreed to do so, he would be subject to administrative or even criminal sanctions, decided against being the organizer.
Many of the radical Russian nationalists have been charged with some of them fleeing abroad to escape prosecution. And many of their organizations have been unable to register with the authorities, leaving them at risk of persecution. As Dmitry Bakharyev, a nationalist who heads the Oprichnik Sports Club, says: the authorities consider that the country is at war and thus are ready to suppress anyone who disagree with them.
And Kralin adds that “any uncontrolled activity on the Russian question now will be viewed with hostility” by the powers that be. The reason is simple, he says. The Kremlin is afraid that disappointed veterans of its war in the Donbas will return with guns in their hands and challenge the current regime.