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Analysis & Opinion
23.11.09 Dead For A Cause
By Roland Oliphant

Anti-Fascists marched in central Moscow on Sunday in memory of Ivan Khutorskoy, a leader of the informal Antifa movement who was murdered last Monday. Khutorskoy’s death came just weeks after the arrest of two alleged neo-Nazis for the murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Natalia Baburova last January. Just how dangerous have Russia’s fascists become, and what happens next?

There was no fighting in the street. The anti-Fascists who gathered to lay flowers at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier consented to police demands to do things quietly – no banners, no shouting. At the police’s behest, those laying flowers were in and out quickly. Ivan Khutorskoy was shot at 8:40 p.m. last Monday in the stairwell of the Moscow apartment block where he lived. Neighbors called the police and an ambulance, but he was pronounced dead on the spot.

Photographs of Khutorskoy show a big bloke with intimidating biceps and a shaved head – not perhaps the image usually associated with opponents of the far right. But Khutorskoy, nicknamed Vanya Kostolom (Vanya the Bonecrusher) was a self-proclaimed “Red skin” - an anarchist and left-winger, rather than a nationalist “Nazi skin.”
Both movements are underground. Yevgenny Proshechkin, head of the Moscow Anti-Fascist Center, described Khutorskoy’s crowd as “people with the best intentions who break the law.” And the rivalry between the two movements often spills into violence. Khutorskoy himself had already survived two attempts on his life – a beating in which he was stabbed in the neck with a screwdriver in 2005, and a stabbing during a street brawl in January of this year.

“It would be fair to say that the conflict between Red skins and Nazi skins amounts to a war on the streets between two youth sub-cultures,” said Semyon Charny, an expert on the far right at the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights. The Antifa movement is a loose alliance that includes Red skins, independent antifascists, and anarchists.

It would be fruitless to dispute that the contract-style murder of Khutorskoy was carried out by the far right. The day after the murder, however, Khutorskoy’s comrades vented their anger not at the neo-Nazis, but at one of the Kremlin’s semi-official patriotic youth movements. Dozens of masked young men descended on the Moscow offices of Young Russia with stones and metal pipes, prompting headlines about a war on the streets. No one was hurt.
The justification for the assault on Young Russia’s offices was that its founder and leader, State Duma Deputy Maksim Mishchenko, has links to Russky Obraz, a far less savory hard nationalist organization of the kind that Kremlin-backed groups like Young Russia are usually encouraged to avoid. Russky Obraz, in turn, was earlier this month implicated in the murder of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova in January. Khutorskoy had occasionally provided security at Markelov’s press conferences.
Not that anything is clear.

The contract-style hit – he was shot twice in the head, apparently by a gunman lying in wait for him – is the second high-profile murder to be linked to neo-Nazis. In early November, Federal Security Service offices detained Yevgenia Khasis and Nikita Tikhonov, both allegedly former members of the neo-Nazi group Russian National Unity, for the murder of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova. Tikhonov admitted to the crime, but claimed that he had acted out of personal animosity rather than ideology (Markelov had sought Tikhonov’s prosecution for the murder in 2006 of anti-Fascist activist Alexander Ryukhin).

When the FSB arrested Khasis and Tikhonov, they also raided the home of Ilya Goryachev, a Russky Obraz coordinator, on the grounds that Tikhonov has been involved in the magazine of the same name. They found nothing at Goryachev’s house, and Russky Obraz sources told the Moskovsky Komsomolets tabloid that the magazine “Russky Obraz” was in no way linked to the organization. The newspaper, however, reported that Goryachev was also the magazine’s editor.

Mischenko’s connection is no less opaque. Both he and Young Russia have publically denied the allegations against them, but Charney said that Mischenko “at the very least has active contacts with the Russky Obraz organization.” And whatever his relation, the suspicion that Obraz members might be involved in the murder is not tenuous. “It is quite possible they were behind it,” said Proshechkin, who keeps a close eye on the Russian far right, “although there is no conclusive evidence as yet, it is well within the bounds of possibility.”

Opinion is divided as to whether neo-Nazis are getting more dangerous, or whether they have always been so ruthless. Proshechkin says he has seen a definite rise in neo-Nazi sympathies in the past few years. But “I wouldn’t say they are more dangerous now than before,” said Charney, “they’ve always been dangerous.”

Perhaps. But to those who marched in Khutorskoy’s memory, he was as much a martyr to the fight against fascism as the soldier buried at the eternal flame below the Kremlin’s walls. And the war he fell in is a long way from over.
The source
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