Report by People and Nature
Anti-fascists in Kyiv yesterday marked the anniversary of the assassination of two Russian activists – and faced intimidation by a neo-Nazi gang as the police stood by.
Russian and Ukrainian activists take to the streets every year to commemorate journalist Anastasia Baburova and lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who were shot dead by fascists in broad daylight on 19 January 2009 in central Moscow.
In previous years, demonstrators in Russia have been harassed by police, while those in Kyiv have had relatively few problems. But not this time. Fascist groups
in Kyiv issued threats against the demonstration in advance, and the police told organisers they could not guarantee their safety.
“Today’s demonstration by the [Kyiv] 19 January committee did not go ahead in the planned format”, the organisers said in a statement issued afterwards. “About 50 neo-Nazis gathered at the October cinema and prevented it going ahead. Another ten attacked one participant, near the Taras Shevchenko metro station.”
In the end, about 15 anti-fascists demonstrated at Podol (see photo), while a similarly-sized group argued with the right wingers as journalists looked on.
The fascists “didn’t disguise their disrespect for the murdered human rights lawyer Markelov – who had secured the punishment of [colonel Yuri] Budanov, who committed war crimes in Chechnya. [In 2000, Budanov raped, beat and strangled to death an 18-year-old Chechen woman, Elza Kungaeva, during the Russian military action there. The Russian right embraced him as a war hero and fought a long and ultimately unsuccessful campaign to have the charges dropped.]
“[In Kyiv yesterday] representatives of the Russian section of the Azov battalion [of volunteers fighting on the Ukrainian government side in eastern Ukraine] said they see Budanov as a hero.
“On one side these events seemed to confirm the Kremlin’s propaganda myths about the rise of fascist movements [in Ukraine] – but on the other, a significant
part of the ultra-right wingers present came from Russia. It’s shameful that Ukraine has become a refuge for fascists from other countries.”
One of the anti-fascist demonstrators, D., commented afterwards on social media on the Russian fascists’ intervention. “A group of Russian neo-Nazis – by all accounts, people who had been fighting with the Azov battalion, and led by Zukhel (Roman Zheleznov [a prominent Russian fascist, whose arrival in Ukraine was reported by Russian anti-fascists here]) came up to our comrades who were holding placards of Stas [Markelov] and Nastya [Baburova] and, pointing at Markelov, said that ‘that so-called lawyer defended Chechen terrorists’. [In fact he had represented the interests of the family of Kungaeva, who had been beaten and murdered.]
“They then began to heap praise on the brilliant Russian army that had destroyed the ‘Chechen scum’, and on colonel Budanov personally. The apotheosis: the claim by one of the Zukhel-ites that ‘you’re against Russian people, you just love those churki’ [an extremely derogatory term for people from the Caucasus]. At this very moment, their Ukrainian brothers-in-arms from the battalion continued to curse the anti-fascists as ‘pro-Moscow separatists’.
“It’s no chance that Zukhel turned up at this demonstration. He was closely linked to the BORN group [of Russian fascists] that killed Stas and at least a dozen other people, and that constantly approved such murders. Having come to break up today’s action, he [Zheleznov] declared that ‘for views that don’t line up with those of the nation’, people not only may be, but should be, killed.”
D. also recorded that the fascist assailants included Sergei Filimonov, who is active in a fascist group that works among Dinamo football supporters, and was responsible for the attack on black English fans who attended Chelsea’s recent away fixture with Dinamo. And there was a group of neo-Nazi teenagers shouting “Sieg heil” and “SS”.
Another Kyiv activist noted on social media that Russian fascists connected with the murder of Markelov and Baburova are fighting on both sides in the eastern Ukraine conflict. While Zheleznov is with the Azov battalion on the Ukrainian side, Dmitry Steshin – who helped protect Nikita Tikhonov, now serving a jail
sentence for killing Markelov and Baburova, prior to his arrest – is “one of the foremost ‘gunmen’ of the Kremlin propaganda campaign in support of the war [by separatists] in Donbass.”
■ There were anti-fascist demonstrations in most of the largest cities of Russia and Ukraine yesterday to mark the anniversary of the killing of Markelov and Baburova. The rally in Moscow was “twice as big as last year”, one participant reported.
In St Petersburg, the authorities refused permission for a demonstration, but did not prevent about 200 participants from walking along the pavement.
Among speakers at the St Petersburg event was the socialist activist Ivan Ovsyannikov, who said at the problem of fascism in Russia had changed its character in the seven years since the deaths of Markelov and Baburova. “While repressing particular nationalists, the state has actively taken over their rhetoric and ideology”, he said.
“By firing up militaristic hysteria, whipping up hatred to ‘traitors to the nation’, playing with ethnic chauvinism and harassing anti-fascists, the state is piling up a Babylonian tower of lies, to divert the attention of working people from the thieving that goes on every day, the growing inequality and the economic catastrophe. If, yesterday, we talked of anti-fascist resistance to counter the ultra-right bandits, then today we need to talk about an anti-fascist revolution.”
■ Update (Wednesday pm). There was an impressive march in Moscow on 19 January: see pictures on social media here. And a picket in Lviv (see picture below). Thanks to P, K and to Grits (see his comment below).
■ These reports paint a picture of a fascist dragon let loose by the Russian state, and in part superceded by the Russian state, extending its tentacles into Ukraine. This experience of Ukrainian and Russian anti-fascists deserves consideration by socialists and anti-fascists in western Europe. I have also today published a short report about some social struggles around workplace issues in eastern Ukraine, another part of the picture of the effect of war and militarism on working people. GL, 20 January 2016.
More on anti-fascism in Russia and Ukraine