Russia: Neo-Nazi gang connected to Kremlin murdered anti-Fascists, immigrants and judges
The Moscow Regional Court has been the venue recently for a closely watched trial in the BORN (Bojové organizace ruských nacionalistů - Combat Organization of Russian Nationalists) case. Members of the group have been charged with murdering several anti-Fascists, attorneys, immigrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia, a journalist and judges.
The trial is taking place in a tense atmosphere, with increased incidents of violent racist crimes and immigrant criminal activity on the one hand and the Kremlin nervously following the testimonies of the defendants on the other, as they are claiming they were paid by the inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin and that their criminal plans were ideologically blessed by him. Members of the gang murdered Federal Judge Eduard Chuvashov; anti-Fascist activists Ivan Khutorsky and Ilya Djaparidze; a member of an organization of Caucasian radican nationals called the Black Cranes, Rasul Khlaliov; world champion in That boxing Muslim Abdullayev; taxi driver Soso Khachikyan; and worker Salakhedin Azizov.
Jobs from the Kremlin
BORN members Maxim Baklagin, Mikhail Volkov, Vyacheslav Isayev a Nikita Tikhonov have confessed to the murders. On 19 November one of the key hearings in the trial took place during which one of the neo-Nazi bosses, Tikhonov, confessed to murdering the famous attorney Stanislav Merkelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova, who were shot dead in broad daylight on a busy street in the center of the Russian capital.
Tikhonov also confessed to being the main ideologue of the neo-Nazi gang. His wife, who participated in the murders, gave shocking testimony about the connection of the gang to Vladislav Surkov, one of Putin's closest co-workers.
"I am one of the founders and organizers of BORN," Tikhonov testified. "Our organization was founded in 2007, when I met with my friend Ilya Goryachev. At that time a warrant had been issued for my arrest and I was in hiding."
Tikhonov, a graduate in history at Moscow State University who worked at an advertising and PR agency as a copywriter, was sought on suspicion of having murdered the anti-Fascist Alexander Ryukhin. A group of neo-Nazis stabbed Ryukhin to death near the Domodyedovska metro station in Moscow.
Ilya Goryachev's reputation was that he had good contacts in Putin's administration and participated in regular consultations at the Kremlin on the topic of nationalist movements. He had been in hiding in Serbia, where he was arrested and extradited to Russia.
"Goryachev told me that he was well-known in the Kremlin and said he might have some jobs for me. These were murders for hire that were in the interests of highly-placed people. He turned to me because he knew I have a wide circle of acquaintances among the football hooligans and neo-Nazis who are prepared to murder in the name of a higher ideal," Tikhonov told the court.
First, according to Tikhonov, there was a discussion of murdering members of the opposition National Bolshevik Party and members of the United Civil Front, led by Garry Kasparov, who were thorns in the side of the Kremlin. However, Tikhonov claimed to have refused to commit those murders because he did not consider opposition activists and politicians to be the enemy.
"Execution" of an anti-Fascist
"I told Tikhonov that Russian anti-Fascists, anarchists and other left-wing radicals were getting money from their European partner organizations to establish 'a new type of political party'. The coordinator of those transactions was supposed to be Stanislav Merkelov, an anti-Fascist who made his living as an attorney. The political party was going to reject nationalism and Stalinism and had a basic aim of fighting for amnesty for illegal immigrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia, whom it was going to provide with legal aid to help get residence permits and visas in Russia. In addition, they were supposed to combat homophobia, neo-Nazism and Orthodox fundamentalism. The new party was allegedly going to hold hard rock and punk concerts where they planned to recruit new members. If something were to happen to Merkelov, those in the President's administration would be in our debt and would reward us," Goryachev told the court.
Several months later, Tikhonov turned up with a list of persons designated for assassination, their addresses and their photographs. At the start of October 2008, Tikhonov and Volkov went to the home of one of the men in the list, anti-Fascist Fedor Filatov, at 10 AM and laid in wait for him outside.
Tikhonov had a knife and Volkov was wearing brass knuckles. Both were masked and wearing wigs in the style of the haircuts of the band The Beatles.
Filatov came out of his front door with his motorcycle helmet in his hand. Tikhonov lunged at him and punched him several times in the head with the brass knuckles.
Volkov then stabbed him with the knife. They left him lying on the sidewalk and fled.
Tikhonov returned to his home and Volkov went to his place of work. The next day they learned from the internet that Filatov had actually died.
In court Tikhonov confirmed Goryachev's testimony regarding the murder. He added that shortly thereafter he met with Goryachev again, who praised him for the murder but also let him know that there was a need to create more of a media stir.
"He tasked me with inventing a name for a group and organizing the dissemination of press releases explaining its neo-Nazi ideology and a warning to anti-Fascists," Tikhonov told the court. "Goryachev gave me a list of e-mail addresses and taught me how to send messages from a phone so police could not determined where they had come from."
Revenge for a dead schoolgirl
Several days later, Tikhonov sent out his first declaration in the name of BORN, the Combat Organization of Russian Nationalists. It was an immediate response to the rape and murder of 15-year-old Russian schoolgirl Anna Byesnova by a citizen of Uzbekistan working in Moscow as a gastarbeiter who was eventually sentenced to 23 years in prison.
Korshunov and Tikhonov wanted to first take revenge for this horrible deed by murdering some of the friends or relatives of the Uzbek murderer. Ultimately, however, they never managed to track him down, so instead they murdered a randomly chosen gastarbeiter "of Central Asian appearance," the worker Salakhedin Azizov.
In 2009 the neo-Nazi Maxim Baklagin joined the group. He did so shortly after Tikhonov murdered the attorney Merkelov and the journalist Baburova.
That scandalous double murder sparked such a panic and response that Goryachev allegedly said to Tikhonov: "The people up top don't want us to murder any more anti-Fascists because it could be counter-productive and spark chaos in the country." However, the members of BORN had acquired a taste for their new mission and did not intend to ignore any other potential victims.
Their next one was the anti-Fascist Ilya Djaparidze. Tikhonov shot him at close range with a taser and Baklagin then stabbed him with a knife.
The BORN action was revenge against an aggressive, violent gang of Caucasian nationalists called the Black Cranes who engaged in attacks against small groups of Russian radical nationalists from among the ranks of football rowdies. One of their members, Rasul Khalilov, was shot dead by Volkov.
Tikhonov sent a report to all the main Russian media outlets in which BORN took responsibility for the murder and declared war on "everyone who is not Slavic." The last victim of the BORN neo-Nazis before the group was apprehended and arrested at the end of 2009 was anti-Fascist activist Ivan Khutorsky.
Culprits from the Kremlin enjoy impunity
The next day of the trial, Yevgeniya Khasis, Tikhonov's wife, testified; she had already been sentenced to 18 years in prison for aiding and abetting the murder of Baburova and Merkelov. She clarified information about the links between BORN and the administration of President Putin.
"The highly-positioned man who led the neo-Nazis to the idea of establishing a criminal gang fighting against anti-Fascists and immigrants," was, according to her testimony, Leonidi Simunin, a functionary in the pro-Kremlin youth movement "The Locals". He was said to have been a subordinate to the first deputy of cabinet head Vladislav Surkov.
"I am describing here in detail a chain of events in which these murders were merely the causal consequences of decisions taken by persons who never were charged [for ordering these assassinations] and probably never will be," Khasis told the court. She spoke of her husband emotionally as a naive, romantic, young skinhead who in the beginning was attracted more by political activity than by criminal acts.
In 2006 the couple established the nationalist, radical magazine Russian Image together "as a platform for attracting radical young nationalists." Then their acquaintance, Goryachev, established a movement of the same name.
Russian Image became very popular among nationalist radical youth and those in the President's administration noticed it as well. "Back then it was Vladislav Surkov himself who was in charge of working with civil society at the Kremlin. He and Leonid Simunin should also bear responsibility for these murders, since they instigated them," Khasis testified.
Surkov currently is Putin's adviser, while Simunin turned up out of the blue several months ago in Donetsk, Ukraine, where he is in the role of adviser to the Energy Minister of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk. The trial will continue to depose more witnesses and a final decision on the classification of the criminal activity of the BORN neo-Nazi group and the length of their sentences is expected by the end of the year.
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