Nationalist groups in Russia get more dangerous: study
Nationalist groups in Russia are becoming increasingly clandestine and dangerous, researchers said on Thursday, speaking after violent riots by extreme-rightists and football supporters shook Moscow late last year.
While fewer people died at the hands of nationalists last year than the year before, ultra-nationalist groups are gaining more supporters and becoming more sophisticated, said Sova, an independent group which monitors hate crimes in Russia.
"The young have stopped ralling around their leaders. There are a lot of small groups which prefer to lay low. It's thousands of people.
"They believe they are conducting a guerilla war, not only against migrants but also against the authorities," said researcher Alexander Verkhovsky as he presented the group's latest report on xenophobia and racism in the country.
"While it was relatelively easy to fight them several years ago, it has now become much harder to find them," he said, chalking up the change in tactics to an increasing pressure from the authorities.
"There has been a change that may have consequences in the future: football fans have joined radical nationalists," said Verkhovsky. "They used to belong to two different environments that did not trust each other."
In December, scores of football fans and ultranationalists clashed with police near the Kremlin in a protest ostensibly at police handling of the shooting of a Spartak Moscow football fan in one of the most violent riots in recent years.
Russia's tough-talking premier Vladimir Putin has vowed to "respond severely" to the violence and said it was a "disturbing sign".
But many analysts say the Kremlin has deliberately courted nationalists for years and the December riots and the subsequent police crackdown showed that the authorities did not entirely control the situation.
"The situation is bad, things have gone too far and it is not clear how to find a way out of it," said Verkhovsky.
Last year, nationalists killed 37 people and injured 382, said the report co-authored by Galina Kozhevnikova, a founder and director of the SOVA Center, who passed away earlier this month.
By comparison, 84 people were killed and 434 injured in racist attacks
© 2011 AFP