Russia | 03/21/2023

Russia 2023 March

Introduction & Updates in National Landscape

March marked one year and one month since the start of the Russo-Ukrainian War.

At the beginning of March, the far-right unit Russian Volunteer Corps, which consists of Nazis fighting on the Ukrainian side, crossed the border into Russia and carried out a daring raid into the Bryansk region. Two children were wounded, and one man was killed in the attack on two border villages. In the video circulated, neo-Nazi leader Denis Kapustin calls for an armed struggle against Putin. Officials in Kyiv denied any connection to the RDK. However, Kapustin later claimed that the attack was coordinated with the Ukrainian authorities.

After that Russian Federal Security Service published a video showing an attempt by the «Ukrainian special services» to assassinate the head of the Tsargrad board of directors, far-right Orthodox oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, as well as an operation to prevent it, according to the intelligence service, the businessman’s car was planned to be blown up with an improvised explosive device. The FSB said that Denys Kapustin, under the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) control, had organized the crime.

In mid-March, the Duma passed a law banning defamation and libel against participants in a special military operation. The amendments extend the law banning criticism of the Armed Forces to volunteers and “other participants in the war.” Journalists asked the co-author of the amendments to the law, chairman of the Duma Defence Committee Andrey Kartapolov, whether Nazis from the Russian Rusich unit could be called Nazis. Kartapolov replied that if “they perform tasks as part of a grouping of Russian troops, it means that they have already rehabilitated themselves.” The Duma has passed a law on responsibility for discrediting any participants in a “special operation.” So-called fakes about any participants in the special operation are punishable by up to 15 years. For defamation, the punishment is up to 7 years.

The Ministry of Justice is trying to liquidate the Sova Information and Analysis Centre, which has been researching nationalism and xenophobia in Russia for more than 20 years.

Andrei Kormukhin, leader of the far-right «Sorok Sorokov» movement, has founded and led the political party «For the Family!» The relevant documents were signed on Saturday at the party’s founding congress. The congress was reportedly attended by 300 delegates from 57 regions of the country. The party’s political council included Vladimir Krupennikov, a deputy of the fifth, sixth, and seventh convocations, military officer Anastasia Mikhailovskaya, retired Soviet general Leonid Reshetnikov, political scientist Vladimir Samoilov and journalist Anna Shafran. Legislative support for “traditional families with many children” and President Vladimir Putin is cited as the aim of political activity.

On 14 March 2023, a Russian Su-27 fighter intercepted and damaged an American MQ-9 Reaper drone before the UAV crashed in the Black Sea.

On 17 March, it became known that the International Criminal Court in The Hague had issued international arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Children’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova. They are accused of deporting Ukrainian children.

The international situation was greatly influenced by the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russia from 20 to 22 March. The Russo-Chinese summit captured many of the characteristics of the emerging world order, with each side trying to maximize the benefits of the summit.

In late March, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia intended to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus. According to him, he agreed on this with President Aliaksandr Lukashenka of Belarus.


Transnational Activities & Group Interactions

The most important campaign in March 2023 for the Russian far-right was the protests around the construction of a mosque in the south of Moscow. For the first time in a long time, the far-right was able to mobilize its supporters and get results. The rally itself took place on 2 April, attracting at least 1,000 people, after which the Moscow authorities decided to move the construction to another location.

The campaign against the construction of the mosque started back in February 2023, when the far-right society Tsargrad posted on its channel on 27 February an article about the construction of «the largest mosque in Russia for 60,000 people». Tsargrad lamented that the authorities did not hold a citywide referendum on the issue and expressed the opinion that «the very fact of the application to build such a cyclopean structure speaks not about an increase in the number of Muscovites professing Islam, but about the emergency situation with the influx of migrants into the capital.» Tsargrad stressed that Moscow had turned into a nationwide center of uncontrolled migration and recalled that elections for the capital’s mayor would be held in September. «A positive decision to erect such a mosque could take away millions of votes of native Muscovites from the government candidate,» Tsargrad concluded the publication.

In mid-March, a video appeared on far-right channels showing a group of far-right activists burying a pig’s head at the construction site, thereby desecrating the space for the mosque. Then, in late March, Russian mixed martial arts fighter Maxim Divnich published several articles about the mosque construction on his private Telegram channel, after which the conflict reached a new level. Divnich started to receive threats. Even the popular blogger Khasbulla Magomedov, known as Hasbik, reacted to the words of MMA fighter Maxim Divnic.

The announcement of the action on 2 April was posted by the major far-right channels, including the Pozdnyakov network, which devoted several posts to the topic at once, as well as the Rusich channel, the Russian Community ZOV, Sorok Sorokov, and the Northern Man by far-right rapper Misha Mavashi. On the day of the action, the far-right gathered near the lake, where they held a prayer service against the construction of the mosque, organized the collection of signatures, and recorded a video. Max Divnich also took part in the rally and was joined by other Russian fighters, Konstantin Yerokhin, Dmitry Aryshev, and Alexei Papin.

On 28 March, RUSOV leader Andrei Rodinov reported that another Serbian volunteer, an associate of RUSOV International with the call sign “Tribal”, had joined the Sudoplatov battalion.