European far-right meets in Russia at pro-Kremlin forum
Representatives of about a dozen far-right groups from across Europe gathered in Russia Sunday for a pro-Kremlin conference as concern swirls over Moscow's alleged attempts to court extremists on the continent.
About 150 members of Russian nationalist and right-wing European parties -- including Greece's Golden Dawn and Germany's National Democratic Party -- met in Russia's second city Saint Petersburg to berate the West for its stance on the Ukraine conflict and to promote "traditional values".
Far-rights groups across Europe have become vocal supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin over his handling of the Ukraine crisis, prompting allegations they have reached a Faustian bargain to help burnish the Kremlin's battered image.
The growing ties come despite Moscow's claims it is aiming to counter what it sees as "fascism" in Ukraine, where pro-Western protesters swept a Kremlin-backed president from power last year.
"We do not support the sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict," Udo Voigt, a member of the European Parliament from Germany's National Democratic Party, said at the conference.
"It is incredible what patience Russia and president Putin have shown in the face of NATO's aggressive policies."
Organisers said the forum was intended to strengthen links with right-wing groups across Europe and help shape a common agenda.
"This meeting is the first foundation stone towards constructing the new world that we are obliged to build," said Fyodor Birukov, from the pro-Kremlin Rodina party that organised the event.
"I see this forum as a way pushing the fight back against liberalism and what we call modernism, the destruction of traditional values including Christianity throughout the modern world," said Nick Griffin, former head of the British National Party.
"Russia is about tradition and Christianity and it's very important that traditionalists from Russia, Europe and America get together to present our ideas more effectively to the general public."
Sunday's meeting sparked condemnation from the liberal opposition in Russia's former imperial capital, with several demonstrators outside the hotel venue holding placards reading "no to Nazis".
"It is scandalous for Russia to welcome the heirs of Mussolini and Hitler," protester Natalia Gerasimova, 57, told AFP.
Russia is gearing up for major celebrations in May to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Fringe far-right groups from around Europe have sent observers to monitor votes by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine that sought to legitimise their rule despite widespread condemnation from Kiev and the West.
© 2015 AFP