Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Just Another Soccer Game in Russia

Novaya Gazetta has an article highlighting the growing neo-nazi presence at Russian soccer matches. Ilya Yashin goes on to make the point that sporting events are occasions not under state control :

" Football fans· movement is one of few organized forces in the country that is out of state control. It·s more and more often that fans stage political actions at the stadiums. Actually, the stands have become long ago the rostrum for giving utterance to radical political slogans. The groups inside fans· movement consolidate not only on the basis of clubs interests, but also political principles. And most of the fans· groups share nationalist ideology."

To a point this is true however the pro-Putin youth movement Nashi (Ours) gets more than a few recruits from the local Moscow followers of Spartak as noted here and here:

"From its very beginning, stories about Nashi have been heavy with references to brawny soccer hooligans, and activists at competing organizations have been more than willing to name names. Sergei Shagrunov, head of the Motherland party's youth group ,and Vladimir Abel, a top official with the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), both identified Roman Verbitskii, the head of Spartak Moscow's Gladiator fan club, as the head of Nashi's regional-development department in articles in "Kommersant-Daily," "Moskovskii komsomolets," and "Vedomosti." "Ekspert" reported on 5 September that Verbitskii and another leader of the Gladiators, Vasilii Stepanov, aka Vasya the Killer, have attended meetings at the Kremlin with other Nashi members. However, Nashi press secretary Ivan Mostovich told "Kommersant-Daily" on 31 August that he does not know any Roman Verbitskii.

Despite these denials, media stories alleging a connection between soccer hooligans and Nashi continue to proliferate. Verbitskii's name in particular has featured in recent stories about a 29 August incident in central Moscow. About 30-40 masked men armed with baseball bats and some wearing symbols of the Nashi youth organization attacked members of the NBP, Avant-Garde Red Youth, and youth organizations from the Motherland and Communist parties. Aleksandr Averin, an NBP activist who was a victim in the incident, said he saw Verbitskii among the attackers. NBP official Abel told "Kommersant-Daily" on 31 August that this is not the first attack on the NBP in which Verbitskii has played a part. "Criminal charges involving a certain Roman Verbitskii have been filed in connection with three previous incidents," he said. The daily also cited an anonymous police source that Verbitskii was present at the attack.

So far, neither Verbitskii nor anyone else has been charged in this attack. Also, reports in and "Novaya gazeta" this week suggested that they are not likely to be. Writing in "Novaya gazeta," No. 68, Yabloko youth-branch head Ilya Yashin, citing an anonymous police source, reported that presidential-administration official Nikita Ivanov visited the police station where the group of men suspected of taking part in the attack were being held and arranged for them to be quickly released without following regular police procedures. According to Yashin, Ivanov, 31, is nominally the deputy head of the administration for interregional and cultural relations with foreign countries at the presidential administration, but his department is in fact primarily concerned with youth policy and preventing an Orange Revolution. So far, only has echoed Yashin's claims about Ivanov's activities that day, and Ivanov's office has declined to comment."

“It’s an open secret that Nashi security, at least at its Moscow events, is provided by Spartak football hooligans with ties to racist skinheads.” I’m also told that United Russia (Putin’s political party and practically the only party in the country) in Vladivostok openly collaborates with neo-Nazis to defend its interests on the streets. Putin is a shrewd politician, preaching anti-fascism on one hand (indeed the Nashi outfit is sold to the public as an antifascist one) while simultaneously employing xenophobic rhetoric himself. Rudnitsky concludes his piece on skinheads, “If anything, they’re [Kremlin operatives] interested in co-opting the fascists and turning them into a politically useful tool in case of a threat from an Orange -- or a National-Bolsheviks -- revolution.” But there is no real threat, not now anyway. And further study is needed on just how closely Nashists and Nazis (to the extent that there’s a difference) are indeed colluding."

BTW I don't think there is a well established Sponge Bob Square Pants KKK wannabe connection as the photo above might suggest.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having been attacked by approximatley 500 football thugs outside the Russiya hotel in Moscow I can believe all about this organisation.
I was part of a group watching Russia play Wales in a World Cup play off match. I have never been so scared, if we stood up to these thugs who knows what the Russian authorities would have done to us.
One final point...Have any of these idiots got any brains...they were chanting "f**k off USA"