Until someone gets killed…

By way of introduction…

A few weeks ago, the Melbourne Croatia Social Club played host to a group of neo-Nazis, numbering somewhere between 40 and 200. They’d assembled to hear Final War from the US — proudly supported, along with literally thousands of other fascist schmucks, by myspace — sing about killing Jews (which is apparently a far less serious crime than smoking marijuana), among other wholesome family entertainment. Last year, and in years previous, the annual gig organised by local neo-Nazi networks was held at The Birmingham Hotel in Fitzroy, otherwise known as a punk rock venue. This year, the gig also starred a band called Quick & the Dead, from Perth. They’ve recently reformed, and are now playing gigs alongside of punk bands such as The Homicides. In Melbourne, The Birmy continues to be supported by bands like The Worst. According to one source, in November, UK punks Beerzone are scheduled to play The Birmy on Friday November 23 with The Beefeaters, Distorted Truth, RUST and The Worst.

In Russia, anarchy is a dead fag.

A Killing in Siberia Injures Russia’s Green Movement; Environmentalist’s Son Confesses Role in Attack; Preserving a Sacred Sea
Alan Cullison
Wall Street Journal
October 29, 2007

IRKUTSK, Russia — Marina Rikhvanova is a mother of Russia’s green movement. Last year, she led thousands of protesters into the streets of this Siberian city against an oil pipeline that would have skirted the pristine waters of Lake Baikal. Afterwards, President Vladimir Putin scrubbed the plan.

This spring Ms. Rikhvanova put together new rallies against Kremlin plans to turn the Irkutsk region into a center for processing nuclear fuel. She helped protesters plan a tent bivouac near the fuel plant, and printed leaflets for campers to hand out to locals, warning of the dangers of radioactive leakage.

One morning in late July she got a phone call telling her the campers had been attacked in their sleep by masked men armed with metal pipes and wooden clubs. One camper was beaten to death.

What happened afterwards has shaken the environmental community and Ms. Rikhvanova’s role as its leader. Authorities arrested her 19-year-old son, who confessed to a role in the attack.

Ms. Rikhvanova’s defenders say she was set up by Russia’s security services, who they say lured her son, a sometime security guard who had recently fallen in with nationalist skinheads [sic], into the attack on the campers. Authorities dismiss that charge as absurd, and say the 46-year-old Ms. Rikhvanova should have spent more time with her family.

In any case, the incident has diminished the stature of one of Russia’s most influential environmental leaders. Until now, Ms. Rikhvanova’s group in Siberia was able to pull together scientists, ecologists and common folk into a populist groundswell that forced the government to pay attention. Her agenda of unspoiled air and water was seen as transcending politics. In the increasingly authoritarian era of President Putin, she and other environmentalists have comprised one of the few respected alternative voices to the Kremlin on public policy.

Now, some erstwhile allies are keeping their distance. “The attack and the arrest afterwards have been a tremendous blow to the environmental movement, and divided it like never before,” said Mikhail Kulekhov, a local journalist who had worked with Ms. Rikhvanova previously but now has backed off. “We all now have to think closely about whom we work with.”

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia’s green movement had a strong footing in Irkutsk because of Lake Baikal, a 25-million-year-old Russian national treasure.

Known to locals as the Sacred Sea, the lake is 400 miles long and more than a mile deep, and holds nearly a quarter of the world’s unfrozen fresh water and an abundance of unique animal life.

Ms. Rikhvanova studied biology in Irkutsk under the Soviet system, she said, “because I didn’t have to lie in the sciences.” She married a fellow biologist, and wrote a thesis on the effects of effluent being dumped into the lake by a Soviet-built pulp and paper plant.

The group she co-founded, Baikal Ecological Wave, started as a kind of tea society, but quickly gathered strength and members. In the early 1990s, Baikal Wave began collecting grants from the likes of the U.S. Agency for International Development and Germany’s Green Party, bought its own headquarters and started a newsletter.

Soon the group was locking horns with the federal government and Moscow’s newly minted energy barons. Ms. Rikhvanova probed the work of a nuclear fuel enrichment plant in the nearby city of Angarsk, and lined up experts to testify against plans of state and newly privatized oil companies to build pipelines skirting the lake.

In 2002, federal agents raided Baikal Wave’s offices, seized its computers and accused the group of acquiring secret maps of the nuclear enrichment plant in Angarsk.

But the group’s persistence paid off. When the Kremlin tried to push through a plan to build one pipeline through a seismically active area within about 900 yards of the lake, Baikal Wave helped organize street protests. One rally in central Irkutsk in March last year drew 5,000 people in freezing temperatures. Baikal Wave also organized “flash mobs” that deposited bottles of blackened water in front of administrative buildings that they labeled “Baikal Water”.

The Kremlin made an about-face the next month. At a news conference on national television, Mr. Putin ordered the pipeline moved 25 miles away from the lake.

The pipeline victory made Ms. Rikhvanova “a messiah,” said Igor Ogorodnikov, an organizer in a leftist [?] youth group, Autonomous Action. The American magazine Condé Nast Traveler flew her to New York and feted her at an annual awards dinner.

Born in 1988, just as his mother’s career as an activist began to take off, her son Pavel had trouble, as did millions of young Russian men, navigating the penury of post-Soviet Russia.

He wanted to study business at a private institute, but his parents had little money to help him. Ms. Rikhvanova and her husband made no more than $1,000 a month between them, and still lived in the same two-room apartment with Pavel and his sister that they had inherited in Soviet times.

While selling books to pay for business school, Pavel was hit over the head by a mugger who stole the books and money he was carrying. Then he got out of the hospital only to be hit in October of 2005 by a car while crossing the street, shattering his knee.

For most of last year he lay on the family couch recovering from an operation that put pins in his leg. When he was able to walk again, he reveled in his freedom by going to soccer matches. “I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it — I was happy that he was happy,” said his father, Yevgeny Rikhvanov.

But in Russia, racist gangs have often congealed around soccer fan clubs. Pavel began coming home from games drunk, his father said, and “speaking in racist ways that I had never heard before.”

In April of this year, Pavel told his parents that a new friend, named Stepan, had found him a job as a security guard working for a local businessman. His parents were alarmed — security firms are often closely tied to law enforcement in Russia. Ms. Rikhvanova thought it strange that Pavel, sickly and asthmatic from childhood, would be offered a job usually reserved for burly toughs.

She said she asked her son not to take the job, fearing it would draw him into trouble. But the salary — about $400 a month — seemed enormous to him.

The family had to worry in part about pressure from the government because Ms. Rikhvanova had just announced plans to oppose the nuclear fuel plant in Angarsk, a top-secret complex in Soviet times that lately had figured in Kremlin plans to make Russia a key player in the world energy market.

At a meeting of the G-8 in St. Petersburg in 2006, Mr. Putin announced Russia would create an international center for processing nuclear fuel, so that countries such as Iran could develop civilian nuclear power without having the technology to make nuclear weapons.

Ms. Rikhvanova said an official advising the local government told her that she risked her reputation by opposing the plant. Some of Ms. Rikhvanova’s former allies shied away from opposing expansion plans that were backed by the Kremlin and would have been a big source of new jobs in the region.

One group that was willing to help fight the plant was Autonomous Action, a loose coalition of mostly youths who call themselves anarchists and radical ecologists.

Mr. Kulekhov, the journalist, calls its members troublemakers because many dub themselves “antifa” — radical antifascists who have a history of clashing with [boneheads] at soccer matches.

Ms. Rikhvanova defends her work with Autonomous Action, which she said was vital to demonstrations against the pipeline last year. Each year the group has set up a tent camp somewhere in Russia that has doubled as a sort of discussion forum on ecological issues. When members said they wanted to set up the camp this year near the Angarsk nuclear facility, Ms. Rikhvanova agreed to help.

Yuri Mishutkin, injured in the July attack, was released from the hospital in September.

They chose a campsite at the edge of Angarsk, in a public forest of mixed pines and birch trees about three miles from the nuclear plant. Tensions simmered from the start: Police officers confiscated some notebooks and music discs from early arrivals. Police also blamed them for spraying antinuclear graffiti on the buildings of the city administration, and the pro-Putin political party, United Russia.

After visiting the camp, a local journalist wrote a scathing article suggesting the campers were living off foreign grant money, and hinted they could be “ecological spies” trying to collect information about secret nuclear installations in the area.

The campers held pickets in town, and handed out thousands of leaflets that Ms. Rikhvanova helped them print warning of the dangers of the plant. She arranged for a physicist to visit the camp and explain the technical side of nuclear enrichment.

On July 20 some officers walked into the camp and told the activists to hand over any cans of spray paint that might have linked them to the graffiti. Police also demanded to see the passports of people staying in the camp. Several campers who refused to surrender their passports were taken to the police station. Ms. Rikhvanova said she went to the police station to help them, and headed home after they were released.

That evening campers gathered around the fire. They were tired from a day of picketing, but worried about a report from a local youth who said he received a text message on his mobile phone, inviting him to take part in an attack on the camp that night, Mr. Ogorodnikov said.

The group decided that three volunteers should stay awake and stand guard. One was Ilya Borodayenko, 26, a lanky typesetter who had arrived that afternoon by train from the far east port city of Nakhodka. Mr. Borodayenko was an experienced fighter.

Alexei Sutyuga also volunteered to stay up that night, and sat by the fire with the others, drinking tea and talking to keep one another awake.

At about 5 a.m., he said, young men with scarves covering their faces ran into the firelight. Mr. Sutyuga said he rose to meet them but someone hit him over the head from behind with a bottle. He said several men beat Mr. Borodayenko with metal bars and he staggered away towards the woods.

Mr. Ogorodnikov said he woke up to screams, and opened the flap of his tent to see more than a dozen young men rampaging through the camp. They slashed open tents with knives and beat those inside.

The attackers poured out the campers’ drinking water on the ground and made a bonfire with their banners, leaflets and camping gear.

They left after about 10 minutes, he said. Campers found Mr. Borodayenko near the edge of the woods, unconscious and bleeding. Ambulances began to arrive 30 minutes later, and took him and eight others to the hospital with broken bones and bruises. He died of a cracked skull shortly after dawn.

Ms. Rikhvanova learned of the attack hours later. Her son, who came home from Angarsk later in the day, seemed preoccupied, she said. He was arrested later that week while at work.

Police arrested 17 other men, but identified only one of them, Ms. Rikhvanova’s son, by name. Ms. Rikhvanova says her son was assigned with the task of tearing down the anarchist flag that was flying over the encampment.

Police said the attack stemmed from hurt feelings over a fight at a soccer game two weeks before. Mr. Sutyuga dismisses the claim, and said no one from the camp had been involved in any fights — most had just arrived in Angarsk from different regions of Russia.

Allies have closed ranks around Ms. Rikhvanova, but they say the attack and Pavel’s arrest have badly dented the image of Irkutsk’s environmental movement.

“In Russia, there is a feeling that in an ordinary family, children support their parents,” said Maksim Vorontsov, a member of the National Bolshevik Party, which has worked closely with Ms. Rikhvanova. “Now people are wondering why children might be attacking their parents. They are saying [ecologists] must be abnormal.”

Ms. Rikhvanova set out her own views on the attack in a letter she wrote to erstwhile allies in the ecology movement. She said she later learned that the security company that hired her son, called Continent, was owned by a top official in the Union of Right Forces, a political party that was once headed by the man who now runs Russia’s atomic-energy agency.

Today she says she suspects that Stepan and possibly her son’s employer had some kind of link with the security services, and that her son was lured into the attack to help ruin Baikal Wave.

Igor Kokourov, the cigarette magnate who owns Continent, calls the accusation nonsense, saying he never met Pavel. “I have too many workers here to act like a parent,” he says, adding that minding Pavel is “her job, not mine.”

Ms. Rikhvanova said she communicates with her son today mainly by letters passed through his lawyer as he awaits trial in a local prison. “I am sorry for what has happened — I should never have gone there,” he wrote to her on a sheet of graph paper last month. “But I swear I never hurt anyone.”

He still has not explained to her how he got involved in the attack, she said.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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