In Russia This Week, you will find links to all the stories of Russia Update in the last week and to special features, plus an article following up on the news and trending topics below.
This Week’s Stories:
– Lithuania Creates New Manual For Its Citizens: How To Survive a Russian Invasion
– Merkel Says ‘No Reason’ to Lift Sanctions on Russia
– How Many Russian Fighters Have Actually Been Killed in Ukraine?
– Russian Spy Ship in Havana as US Arrives for Talks with Cuba
– Russia Lashes Back at Obama’s SOTU Remarks on Ukraine
– Moscow Art Activists Who ‘Exorcized’ Lenin Get 10 Days in Jail
– Putin Believes He Has Deliberately Been Left Out of Auschwitz Commemoration
– Russian Parliament Plans Law to Ban ‘Undesirable’ Foreign Organizations
– Russian Conservative Appointed as Deputy Head of Bank of Russia
– 4 Chechen Immigrants and 1 Austrian Citizen Accused of Preparing Terrorist Attack in Vienna
– Russian Official In Culture Ministry Quits Over Crackdown On Protests And Artists
– Ultranationalist Protesters Beat Opposition Supporters After Demonstration
– 13 Detained in Moscow at Opposition Protest
– Police Force Demonstrators Off Manezhnaya Square, Crush at Metro
– Few Remain From Once Numerous ‘White Ribbon’ Protesters Against Putin in Moscow
– ‘Managed Spring’: How Moscow Parted Easily with the ‘Novorossiya’ Leaders
– Putin ‘The Imperialist’ A Runner-Up For Time’s ‘Person of the Year’
– It’s Not Just Oil And Sanctions Killing Russia’s Economy: It’s Putin
– Christmas in Grozny
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The Russian independent media has reported more on the Anti-Maidan movement that has been appearing at opposition opposition rallies and pickets, sometimes beating demonstrators.
Novaya Gazeta‘s Nikita Grin says that a number of public figures have come forward to say they are the leaders of this movement. We can add some biographical details:
– Aleksandr Zaldostanov, known as “The Surgeon,” the head of the Night Wolves’ biker club. Recently Zaldostanov went to Grozny to attend a million-Muslim rally against cartoons insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Zaldostanov has met with Putin a number of times.
– Dmitry Sablin, member of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. Sablin is closely tied to Boris Gromov, an Afghan veteran (the last Soviet soldier to leave Afghanistan) who served as deputy interior minister and governor of Moscow Region and is currently a deputy of the State Duma.
– Nikolai Starikov, writer, chair of the Great Fatherland Party
– Vyacheslav Shabanov, member of the Afghanistan Veteran’s Council
– Yuliya Berezikova, world champing in mixed martial arts and boxing. Berezikova lost her last fight in 2013 to Polish fighter Joanna Jedrzejczyk
– Frants Klintsevich, deputy chair of United Russia, the ruling party.
– Mikhail Porechenkov, a famous war-film actor, who has become infamous for joining Russian-backed rebels and shooting at Ukrainians at the Donetsk Airport while wearing “press” identification.
Sablin says that the movement already has 1,000 members, and that it would likely grow to 10,000 because it has had that many applications already. It has a headquarters and executive committee and plans to chose co-chairs:
The numeric size of the organization is important, since, in Sablin’s words, the anti-Maidan activists intend to go to all the major unauthorized mass events and numerically dominate over their participants. “If a non-authorized mass event is planned, then all the members of the organization will turn out. If it’s a local action, we will monitor the situation: the Cossacks will turn out in some places, the Fighting Brotherhood will turn out in others, At any rate, there will always be more of us than the participants.
Anti-Maidan already tested this idea at a rally on January 15 in defense of opposition leader Alexey Navalny and his brother, Oleg, who were unjustly charged with fraud. Only a few hundred people turned out after Navalny himself urged that the event, originally tied to his sentencing date, be cancelled, and they were overwhelmed by Cossacks, Afghan war veterans, and young men in orange-striped wool caps who beat up some of the protesters.
Sablin said they would strive to recruit professional athletes and military officers. Asked if they would deliberately start fights, Sablin said that “we are for observing the law, but we will not allow people to be offended and we will always defend our country and the values of our society.” He also said there would be special training camps for the member’s recruits.
As we noted, the first reports about an “Anti-Maidan” movement forming on the model of such organizations in the Crimea last year appeared in August by Izvestiya, which said spetsnaz military officers, Orthodox Church supporters, Cossacks, bikers and other nationalists would take part.
Then later further reports indicated a similar configuration. Now, however, the Russian Orthodox element seems to be missing as such in the form of known Orthodox leaders, although Zaldostanov portrays himself as a devout biker. This could indicate some behind-the-scenes disagreements or jockeying for power regarding how the opposition will be resisted.
Also missing are any obvious members of the hard-core ultranationalist groups that have sent fighters to the Donbass, such as the Eurasianist leftists of Essence of Time or the National Liberation Movement [NOD]
That may be due to the fact that this is “managed democracy,” and Kremlin social engineers have carefully created this group so that it doesn’t challenge its own rule.
RBC quotes Prof. Nikolai Petrov, an analyst at the Higher Economics School, who points out these types of anti-protest groups were made in 2004 during the “Orange Revolution” as well:
It’s hard to image that the joining of bikers and veterans will leave to some productive political forces, aimed at work, and not just threats, said the expert.
Sergei Davidis, a member of the Memorial Human Rights Center said that the movement will not deter street demonstrations, but will merely bring a greater element of conflict to them.
This article first appeared January 22, 2014 in Russia Update.