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July 20, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10718

Russian Ultranationalist Groups Claim A Turn In Russian Government Policy After Wagner Group Mutiny: 'The Coup Was Successful'

July 20, 2023
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 10718

After the mutiny by Yevgeny Prigozhin and members of the Wagner Group, ultranationalist and fascist groups in Russia have claimed that Russian authorities are renewing their crackdown on extremist groups, with some claiming that such a shift in official policy was the ultimate goal of the mutiny. Ultranationalist groups predict further repressive measures at the hands of Putin's government in the coming months.

The following report outlines the reactions of extremist ultranationalist groups to Prigozhin's mutiny and the policy changes that have followed.

The Kremlin's "Pivot" To "Anti-Liberal" Ideology

On March 21, 2022, during a meeting on measures of socio-economic support for various regions, Russian President Vladimir Putin called[1] for repression of the "Fifth column." The president condemned the Western countries, warning people to be alert for the enemies within the state, "True, of course, [the West] will back the so-called 'Fifth column,' national traitors, i.e., those who make money here, in our country but live abroad, and [I use the word] "live" not in the geographical sense, [they live in the West] in their minds, following their servile mentality... But any nation, and even more so the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and will simply spit them out like a gnat that flew into their mouth, spit them onto the pavement.[2] I am convinced that such a natural and necessary self-cleansing of society would strengthen our country, our solidarity, and cohesion and our readiness to respond to any challenge."


Russian President Vladimir Putin during his opening speech at the meeting on measures of socio-economic support for the regions (Source: Website of Russian President, Kremlin.ru)

This statement launched a wave of persecution against figures and communities considered "Western-minded." Opposition media and persons were labeled "foreign agents,"[3] new articles were introduced to the Criminal Code including those titled: "on defamation of Russian Armed Forces," "calls for the introduction of restrictive measures against the Russia, Russian citizens and Russian legal entities."[4] Some extremist groups deployed new legal instruments in fighting their "liberal" or "pro-Western" opponents. One such practice is mass filing of complaints to police in order to stop undesired public or Internet activity through administrative or criminal cases.


A screenshot of a July 1 post by the head of the extremist and misogynic "Male's State," Vladislav Pozdnyakov urges his Telegram subscribers to file mass complaints against musical performer Ilya Pruskin, "Go to the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (https://мвд.рф/request_main). Scroll down the page and write in your own words the following statement, "Please bring to criminal prosecution under article 148 of the Criminal Code of Russia Ilya Prusikin, the lead singer of the band 'Little Big,' for insulting actions (trampling) of an Orthodox cross on Christmas Eve. He posted this video on his social network Instagram."

These events were perceived by some part of Russian conservative circles – mainly those with pro-state, Imperialistic or Pan-Slavic views – as a pivot of state policy from "Western liberalism" to conservative ideology. For instance, conservative and Christian Orthodox "Katekhon" media claimed[5] a start of Putin's war against the "liberal world order." The Orthodox Telegram channel "Sons of Monarchy" urged[6] liberals to repent: "Now they [liberals] must become pariahs and outcasts in our great country. Either let them repent and kiss the feet of the Russian people or let them get out of our country completely and forever," claiming that Putin's speech of March 21 had "become the manifesto of national Russia and the Russian movement. This speech, which was full of references to the Bible, Ilyin, and traditional values, shows that Russia is moving away from slavishly copying Western liberalism and turns toward the task of creating the Russian nation-state, the revival of a Russian empire with whose interests the whole world will have to reckon." Russian writer, politician and one of the creators of the political party "A Just Russia – For the Truth," Zakhar Prilepin also prophesized a "right-wing turn" in state policy.[7] Russian nationalist Egor Kholmogorov argued[8] that Putin's anti-colonial discourse[9] in the international arena is by no means "leftist," but on the contrary is based on "right-wing traditional values."

Repression Against Conservative Groups

However, authority's policies during the war disenchanted many conservative Russians. Covert POW exchanges, the doubtful competence of the General Stuff, the "grain deal," poor migration policies and especially Prigozhin's failed mutiny caused a lot of criticism toward the authorities even on the part of patriotic and pro-state groups, who were calling for more resolute and tougher actions.

In addition, on July 14, 2022, the authorities passed a new bill, criminalizing depictions – including in the form of tatoos – of the "Swastika," the "Black Sun," the "Wolfsangel," the "Kolovrat,"  which is a type of Russian swastika popular among neo-Pagan movements, the "Totenkopf," and other symbols. The bill led to wide criticism of the authority's actions. On July 14, neo-Nazi "Levikh net [No leftists allowed]" published[10] a post reading: "Not only will Russian National Socialists be persecuted under this article, but in general all those who adhere to any right-wing ideology in Russia – this law will also work against neo-Pagan groups."

Thus, on July 12, 2023, the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), which has been designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the United States Department of State, proclaimed[11] a "pivot" of the state policy against "conservative, Orthodox part of society." The channel argued that Prigozhin's mutiny had succeeded, with certain cliques within the Kremlin gaining the upper hand as a result of it: "The coup succeeded... We do not know yet who among the so-called 'Kremlin towers' emerged victorious and who lost... We can observe a sharp change in domestic politics that begun at the end of last week and the start of this week. The attack on the conservative, Orthodox part of society has begun. That is, on Russian [national] organizations." The post reported on the blocking of RIM accounts on the Russian social network VK and a prohibition from conducting a liturgical procession on the Day of the Slaughter of the Holy Royal Martyrs, a holiday commemorated on July 17.[12]


The text of a post published by the official RIM account reads: "All those who are in favour of winning the war and who participated in the SVO [Special Military Operation in Ukraine] are subject to repression... The methodology [of the authorities] has changed. This speaks of the changes taking place in the administrative and power bloc of the government. In the near future we will see how these changes will affect the situation at the front."

Another example recalled by the RIM post was a police crackdown on the right-wing publishing house "Listva." On July 10,  the staff of "Listva" publishing house, located on Liteyny Avenue in St. Petersburg was evacuated after a false "bomb scare."[13] Police conducted searches and blocked off all of Liteyny Avenue. On the same day, former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer and former defense minister of the Donetsk People's Republic Igor Girkin was supposed to give lecture on Prigozhin's mutiny at "Listva." Girkin supports the SVO but is very critical of the authorities and the president. According to the staff of the "Listva" the police had previously hinted that the lecture and the guest were not welcome. Igor Girkin also noted[14] the self-destructive nature of state policy toward conservative and patriotic movements and compared it to a three-headed dragon from Russian fables.

The text of the post reads: "The Russian government now resembles the three-headed Serpent 'Gorynych,'... but who went fat and flabby and has long forgotten how to fly and spit fire. Right now, the said Gorynych is sitting on a branch over an abyss and, under the guidance of his right head [i.e., the right-wing faction of the elite], is sawing the branch he sits on with remarkable concentration and diligence... The right head also occasionally mumbles something about 'damned foreign agents and nasty Russian nationalists,' who should have been 'dealt with' a long time ago. While the middle (and main coordinating) head [i.e., the president's power] sagged limply... It is silent, and in general, looks bluish and has begun to stink."

 

[1] Kremlin.ru/events/president/news/67996

[2] Putin makes a sexual metaphor, referring to Russian expression "panel" or "na panel" [on a pavement] referring to prostitution facilitated on a street, thus comparing 5th column to insect and prostitutes.

[3] minjust.gov.ru/ru/activity/directions/942/spisok-lic-vypolnyayushih-funkcii-inostrannogo-agenta/?hash=cfa8947a-b36e-447a-aca0-dcf06a53cf4d

[4] See further: Federal law "On controlling the activities of persons under foreign influence," President's decree "On Approval of the Fundamentals of State Policy for Preserving and Strengthening Traditional Russian Spiritual and Moral Values," Russian parliamentary party "A Just Russia – For the Truth" reported launching a specialized website for complains about 'enemies and traitors.'

[5] katehon.com/ru/article/voyna-putina-protiv-liberalnogo-poryadka

[6] t.me/SonOfMonarchy/7325

[7] t.me/zakharprilepin/15671,

[8] t.me/holmogortalks/25190

[9] See further, "Putin, the anti-colonialist The Kremlin's new model of Russian 'soft power'" europeanstudies.macmillan.yale.edu/news/putins-anti-colonial-agenda

[10] t.me/levyhnet/1233

[11] t.me/Rus_imperia/11110

[12] Annual Cristian Orthodox processions are held on 7/17 at various churches, mainly at the Church on Blood in Honor of All Saints, Yekaterinburg. The day comes as a very important holyday for RIM and many other Cristian Orthodox and Imperialistic groups.

[13] news.rambler.ru/army/51065253-politsiya-iz-za-soobscheniya-o-minirovanii-evakuirovala-peterburgskiy-magazin-gde-igor-strelkov-dolzhen-byl-vystupit-s-lektsiey-o-myatezhe/

[14] t.me/strelkovii/6032

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