Staunton, February 21 – A new and dangerous trend is emerging among some Russian nationalists as a result of the war in Ukraine, with some insisting that the conflict there is “the result of a Zionist conspiracy against the Slavs” and opposing the inclusion of “Novorossiya” within Russia lest it give the Kremlin more supporters.
Some of those who hold these views, Natalya Yudina of the SOVA Analytic Center says, have gone to Ukraine to fight against Russian forces where they are acquiring military skills that they are likely to employ inside the Russian Federation once the fighting in Ukraine is over (ru.rfi.fr/rossiya/20150219-natalya-yudina-odnim-iz-posledstvii-voiny-v-donbasse-mozhet-stat-rezkaya-aktivizats/).
Yudina told RFI’s Russian Service that such people are also interested in fighting against pro-Moscow forces operating in Ukraine because they want to kill ethnic Chechens who, they are convinced, form a significant fraction of Russian forces there. The death of Chechens or indeed of any Caucasians is something these people “only welcome.”
Those who hold such views are not taking part in the debates among Russian nationalists in Moscow. Instead, they prefer to act directly by “personally participating” in the war. Yudina said she did not know exactly how many there are but suggested that there are “no fewer than 200 including Cossacks and perhaps even more.”
Many of these people are veterans of the Chechen or even Afghan wars and thus have some military experience in their pasts. Many are not tied to any Russian organization but at least some have links to Aleksandr Barkashov’s Russian National Unity, Aleksandr Dugin’s Union of Youth and Stanislav Vorobyev’s Russian Imperial Movement.
Some of these groups, perhaps especially because their presence on the Ukrainian side can be and has been used to discredit Ukraine, likely enjoy the support of some in the Russian government, Yudina suggested, but she said she has no specific information concerning such ties.
As long as such people are fighting in Ukraine or elsewhere, they are unlikely to use their violent skills in pursuit of their extremist goals within the Russian Federation. Indeed, Yudina said, there has been if anything a falloff in such actions in recent months as those who had engaged in such things are now in Ukraine.
But she said that she is “extremely pessimistic” about the future when “the war will end” and when “these people will return” to Russia “after having acquired certain experience of military actions.” In the past, these people talked on the Internet, but in the future, she suggested, they may make use of their military skills.
And Yudina concluded: “the dream about ‘a Russian revolt’ or ‘white revolution’ in that event will not seem as fantastic” as it does today. And that in turn, she said, means that “yet another consequence of this war could be a sharp increase in the activities of right-wing radicals inside Russia itself.”