Russia has been waging war against Ukraine for three months now. Casualties are classified, but according to Ukrainian officials, more than 30,000 Russian soldiers have already been killed. After the capture of Mariupol by Russian troops, there was no change on the front.
Updates in the National Landscape
Despite the fall in real income, which the Ministry of Economic Development estimated in May at 6.8% in 2022, Russians have rallied behind President Vladimir Putin, who in the public mind is perceived as the man who alone made the decision to wage war. According to polls by the government’s Public Opinion Foundation, Putin’s support rating was 80. Before the start of the war in February 2022, his rating was 64.
The protests, which were coordinated by the democratic Vesna movement, were successfully repressed. The movement’s website was blocked, and anti-war rallies in the centre of Russia’s major cities, which were held every weekend, were no longer held.
Against this background, radical neo-Nazis, who did not support the war in Ukraine, turned to terror tactics. They set fire to military recruitment centres and cars with Z stickers – which motorists put on as a sign of support for the Russian military operation.
One of the detainees in the case of the attempted assassination of Russian top propagandist Vladimir Solovyov was a convicted neo-Nazi 29-year-old Moscow dweller Timofey Mokiy. Allegedly, on April 25 he threw two Molotov cocktails into the Moscow police department building in the Kosino-Ukhtomsky district; on May 18 – threw two Molotov cocktails into the military registration and enlistment office in Shchelkovo (Moscow region) breaking windows in the building; two days before this – he set fire to a military registration and enlistment office in Pronsk (Ryazan settlement).
Transnational Activities & Group Interactions
Serbian nationalists from Serbian Action visited associates from the Imperial Legion. They came to St. Petersburg and filmed a video with the leader of the Legion Denis Gariyev, who talked about the history of the Russian Imperial Movement, the Legion, and its combat merits in Ukraine. Judging by the description, the Serbs visited St. Petersburg in February two weeks before the start of the war, but the video was not published until early May. The Legion’s page also states that they organized marches in support of Russians in Serbia after the war.
Seems like after this event the Imperial Legion went to war in Ukraine where Denis Gariyev was wounded during the battle and at least two of his fellows died. One of them is Gariev’s deputy Denis Nekrasov, nicknamed Dobryy.
Some nationalist organizations celebrated Victory Day. As early as May 6, members of the Russian All-People’s Union (ROS), together with representations of the Moldovan Transdnistrian Republic in Moscow, Omsk community and Slavic Academy laid flowers at the tomb of Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin wall: altogether about 50 people with imperial flags and ROS flags gathered there. Sergey Baburin, leader of ROS, addressed the crowd and proposed to remember also those “who are fighting the Nazis in Ukraine”.
Transnational Developments on Discourse in Mainstream Media
Spiegel published a confidential report by the Federal Intelligence Service of Germany, which claims that at least two groups with right-wing extremist sentiments, the Russian Imperial Legion, a paramilitary unit of the Russian Imperial Movement (RID), are involved in military actions in Ukraine on Russia’s side. In addition, the report refers to the group Rusich.
The report does not specify the number of fighters fighting in Ukraine. Both groups fought on the Russian side in Donbas in 2014 and 2015. Cooperation with these groups brings the Kremlin’s stated reason for the war – the so-called “denazification” of Ukraine – to the point of absurdity, Spiegel recounts the intelligence document.
Ukrainian journalists discovered among the military correspondents of the Russian news agency RIA Novosti an outspoken neo-Nazi Gleb Ervier, who covers military events in Ukraine.
According to News.ru, Gleb Ervier is a far-right tattoo artist from Tomsk. He moved to Moscow in 2016 and together with Andrei Dedov, nicknamed Ded, a member of the gang of Russia’s most famous neo-Nazi Maxim “Tesak” Marcinkiewicz, opened the Studio 18 tattoo parlour at the Flacon art factory. Dedov may be involved in a series of murders. It is likely that in this connection he is hiding in Ukraine, despite the fact that he was included in the list of the “Peacemaker” website. Ervier also became involved in the propaganda of far-right views through the Citadel project, which produced three documentaries under the general title “The European View”.
Gleb Ervier does not deny that he was a Nazi, but he changed his views after the 2014 Donbas war. Dedov stayed in Kyiv and nowadays opposes Russian aggressive actions.
Transnational Social Media Activity & Propaganda/Narratives
Far-right Russian telegram channels have split into two parts, reflecting the situation in society. The far-right, which supported Russia, switched to blatant racist propaganda and published memes humiliating Ukrainians. Such memes portray Ukrainians as backward, rural people, usually using the word “hohly” or “rahuli. The latter is a slang term used by urban Ukrainians to refer to villagers who have not assimilated urban customs and culture. Russian far-right activists also spread anti-Ukrainian memes in the form of pictures that depict Ukrainians as pigs, thereby dehumanizing them. Neo-Nazi channels also distribute pictures of the corpses of Ukrainian soldiers with mocking captions. For example, the channel of neo-Nazi mercenary Yevgeny “Topaz” Rasskazov, who fights for neo-nazi unit Rusich, spreads racist neo-Nazi propaganda that ridicules Ukrainians in an extremely harsh manner, deliberately provoking a backlash. He even presented toys which praise war and humiliate Ukrainians.
At the same time, Russian-language far-right channels that have supported Ukraine publish exactly the same content with different emphases. They usually focus on Putin’s personality and portray Russians as backward, savage, barbaric people (as opposed to the Europeanized Ukrainian people) from Asia who do not accept democratic values and blindly follow the orders of their superiors. The Russians are portrayed in memes as beggarly thugs and descendants of the Bolsheviks who came to plunder rich Ukraine. The word used as a racist nickname is “pigdogs” or schweinehund. This term was used by the Nazis during World War II to refer to Russians.
Transnational Political and Financial Cooperation
The far-right is raising money to buy military equipment for the neo-Nazi Rusich battalions, publishing wallet details to transfer money via ordinary credit cards or cryptocurrency on Telegram channels. Afterwards, they publish photo reports of the purchases, showing donors that their money was spent wisely.
Public alt-right politician Roman Yuneman and far-right journalist Gleb Ervier participate in a humanitarian fundraiser. They do not raise money to buy military equipment but concentrate on direct aid to the affected population in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian lands.