Friday, September 15, 2023

Russian Veterans returning from Ukraine Form ‘Self-Defense Squads’ to Counter Crime among Central Asians Living around Moscow

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 3 – Russians living in the outskirts of Moscow city and in the surrounding Moscow region have long been alarmed by the concentration of Central Asian immigrant workers in their areas, the growth of crime among them, and the failure of the Russian militia to take action against them.

            Now, such Russians have a new ally: voluntary “self-defense squads” consisting of or at least led by Russian veterans of the war in Ukraine who can be called in to take action against immigrants when the authorities refuse to do anything, something these Russians say is all too often the case (

            Such unofficial units may well contain Russians who went to fight in Ukraine to avoid having to fulfill their own prison sentences for crimes they committed. And to the extent that is the case, a very dangerous situation is emerging, one in which groups all too familiar with criminal measures will be on both sides of such conflicts.

            One of the regions where such conflicts have already occurred is Lyubertsy, a neighborhood that became notorious at the end of Soviet times because of the activities of bodybuilders and judo enthusiasts who regularly challenged the police. That locale may now becoming a hotspot again, albeit for entirely different reasons. 

            If those taking part in such “self-defense squads” feel they have the implicit blessing of the powers that be and if other regions copy what is going on there, it is entirely possible that the level of violence between Central Asian migrant workers and Russians will escalate not only in Moscow’s suburbs but in other Russian cities as well, sparking a countrywide crisis. 


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