Tag Archives: Russia

Once again, those Russian neo-Nazis – the Wagner group

The Wagner Group is a private military company – effectively mercenaries. It has been used for the military activity of the Russian Federation in various parts of the world. Currently, it is operating in Ukraine and apparently has a reputation as a very brave and effective force in the battle for Donbass. Its name comes up frequently in the reports from the Military Summary Channel I referred to in How is the war going?

As the video above shows even Russian reporters treat the group as somewhat of a mystery – although an effective mystery. It would be nice to dig deeper into its formation and history but that is not the purpose of this post. I will only say I am not a fan of private military or mercenary companies – they seem to be a way governments use capitalism to do their dirty work. A way of handling problems but refusing to take responsibility.

The sole reason for this article is that it was requested on Twitter by Grae O’Sullivan (@GraeSullivan). It is another one of those requests people who discuss the problem of ultranationalism in Ukraine are often confronted with – “Russia has neo-Nazis too.” Or “Putin supports neo-Nazis.” It’s usually a way of diverting the discussion away from the Ukrainian problems. And rather than discussing any evidence for the assertions, I am usually confronted with only a citation or a link – as I was in this case.

Grae insists I “explain away the Wagner Group’s links to neo-Nazi ideology because he (ME) thinks the Ukr govt’s links to the Azov battalion gave RU a reason to invade.” Incidentally, he misrepresents me as I have never “justified” the current war that way. Putin may have given denazification as one of his aims in this war, but my analysis is aimed at understanding the situation, not justifying the action of any country. Still, it seems that the minute one tries to apply reason and evidence to the situation in Ukraine someone will accuse you of “parroting Putin” or being a “Putin puppet.”

Responding to this request is probably a waste of time and I have been burned before by someone who has made a similar request and then refused to engage with any discussion on my analysis of his citation (see Confusion about neo-Nazis in Ukraine-Russia war, Neo-Nazis in Ukraine – stages of denial, and What about those Russian neo-Nazis? which were responses to a similar request from Peter Ballie). But Gae has assured me he won’t run away from the analysis like Peter did and will engage with it – so here goes.

Grae has insisted I discuss the evidence in the article Neonacizmas Rusijos samdinių tarpe by Lucas Andriukaitis.  Originally in Lithuanian, the English title is “Signs of neo-nazi ideology amongst Russian mercenaries.”

I will start by explaining that Lucas Andriukaitis is a researcher at the Atlantic Council DFR Laboratory. The Atlantic Council is well known to be strongly linked to NATO and funded by it. Ukrainians occupy many of the Council’s fellowships. Its articles are usually rather polemical in a naive sort of way, and I see it as one of the main conduits for spreading disinformation on geopolitical issues. These sorts of organisations and think tanks are often used by governments, military and intelligence groups to get opinions into the media without tainting with the associations of the real source. Bellingcat and The White Helmets are similar fronts for this purpose.

I don’t wish to condemn the article by describing the source and association. Let its claims be judged by the evidence presented in the article.

The article makes a few completely unsubstantiated claims to set the scene for the reader. Sentences like “the type of far-right ideology expressed in Russian mercenaries is showing homage to Nazi ideology,” “the numerous mercenaries who went to fight in Donbass, Syria and Libya are neo-Nazis themselves,” and its final conclusion –“open-source evidence suggests that fighter sporting neo-Nazi symbols serve in military groups associated with the Kremlin, including the founder of the infamous Wagner group.”

So what evidence is presented in the article?

Very little, really. Just some vague tattoos, a hat and some insignia noticed on military vehicles or in other countries where the Wagner group was meant to have served.


The article refers to tattoos on a single individual, Dimitry Utkin. It’s all very vague, though, as are tattoos.

The photo on the left is claimed to be of Dimity Utkin bearing neo-Nazi tattoos. Somehow the Microsoft safe recognition software was used to prove the two people are the same.

The article says:

“When this photo surfaced, some concerns online were expressed about the person in the photo. In order to check if the person in the photo is really Utkin, an old passport photo of him was used with Microsoft Azure face recognition software. This software allows to compare two photos and give a confidence rating of how likely it is that the two faces belong to the same person. A score above 0.7 suggests with high reliability that it is the same person. In this case, the score given by Microsoft Azure was 0.71723.”

Yeah, right. Rather shonky evidence and it smacks of the sort of tricks Bellingcat uses in their open source “research.” But, one person with a few tattoos!

This article was pointed out to me because there are plenty of online photographs of Ukrainian ultranationalists sporting pro-Nazi tattoos. I should remind readers, however, that questionable tattoos may be quite common in young men that are conscripted for military service. To some extent the tattoos of Azov battalion soldiers could well have originated from their days as soccer hooligans. The Azov groups were originally financed by the Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky who owned a football club with an accompanying fan club from which he recruited young men for the group.

So, by itself, the presence of a tattoo is not evidence of a crime or war crime and I do feel a little bit sorry for the way Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered in Mariupol, Ukraine, recently were first filtered by checking for tattoos. No one should be made to suffer for the indiscretions of their youth.

Frankly, I find this sole evidence of the ideological leanings of the claimed founder of the Wagner group very pathetic.

But wait. There is more

The only other evidence offered for the far-right ideological leanings of this founder of the Wagner group is this photograph showing someone wearing a “Wehrmacht hat.”

Photo allegedly taken in Syria The man in the Wehrmacht hat is alleged to be Utkin

This is extremely weak evidence to support the claim of the ideological views of the individual concerned. As the article says:

” Even though the exact location of the photo is unknown and the faces of the soldiers in the photo are blurred, the man in the [photograph] wearing the hat is suspected to be Utkin. The bald head and the shape of an ear visible in the photo suggests that the person in question could be Utkin.”

Let’s move on to the only other individual mentioned in this article, Yan Petrovsky. Apparently, he was “deemed a war criminal by the Ukrainian authorities.” No detail of his alleged crimes, although another Ukrainian report links them to “torturing and killing POWs from the Ukrainian Aidar Volunteer Battalion.” The Aidar battalion is one of the neo-Nazi or ultranationalist militias which has also been accused of torture and killing of citizens of Donbass in the war that has raged there since 2014.

Thi is presented as evidence that Petrovsky is a neo-Nazi

But this article mentioned Petrovsky because of his alleged Nazi salute in Syria (see photo) and his “posing for numerous photos with hate symbols.” The photos from Syria are very vague but the article assures as they “show exactly where he was, but also his identity was verified despite the blurred faces in the photos.” Context is left to the readers, even if we assume the identity was correct. Is he pointing to something, lecturing to other soldiers or making a Nazi salute to some unidentified person or object?

Runes and symbols

Petrovsky posing with far-right symbols: Valknot (left image), Tyr rune (right image)

Neither of these vague bits of evidence refers to any specific crimes – only to the use of particular symbols. We have no indication if they are associated with real neo-Nazi ideology and actions, represent indiscretions of youth or are used for ideological reasons.

The Vaknut has a “variety of purposes in modern popular culture.” It is a national symbol of Norway but has been used by some white supremacists.  “Nonracist pagans may also use this symbol, so one should carefully examine it in context rather than assume that a particular use of the symbol is racist.” (See Valknot).

The Tyr rune is an ancient European symbol commonly used by Germanic neopagans to symbolize the veneration of the god Týr. But it has also been used by Nazis and neo-Nazis today. “Because today the Tyr rune continues to be used by non-racists as well, including members of various neo-pagan religions, one should not assume that use of the symbol is racist but instead should judge the symbol carefully in its specific context.” (See Tyr rune).

So, the symbols portrayed in these photos(and other photos in the article where they appear in graffiti and on a military vehicle) may result from far-right ideology or the views of members of the Wagner group. Or they may be more innocent. But these very few instance are nothing compared with the evidence for the far-right ideology of the ultranationalist groups in Ukraine.

Comparing Ukraine and Russia

Nothing in this article compares with the reported incidents of war crimes or the treatment of Russian and Roma ethnic minorities in Ukraine and videos of them torturing and killing Russian POWs.

Street names and monuments

There is no evidence that members of the Wagner group treat Nazi collaborators who committed massacres in WWII as heroes in the way that Ukrainian ultranationalists do. Hell, the growth of ultranationalism in Ukraine since independence has lead to moments to these “heroes” and naming streets aftyet them.

Let’s just consider Roman Shukhevych and Stepan Bandera who were associated with the massacre of thousands of Poles and Jews in west Ukraine and with similar atrocities in Belorus (for example the massacre in Khatyn, see Don’t put all the blame on the Germans – a lesson from World War II).

Kiev Street map. The road to the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial is along the avenues named after Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych – ultranationalist collaborators with Nazi Germany during World War II.

A statue of Ukrainian Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera stands in Ternopil, Ukraine. Stepan Bandera was a Ukrainian nationalist leader, politician and theorist of the militant wing, who served as head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, an organization responsible for ethnic cleansing and implicated in collaboration with Nazi Germany Image Credit: Times of Israel

Monument to Shukhevych in Krakovets, Ukraine. Roman Shukhevych was one of the commanders of Abwehr’s Nachtigall Battalion, a hauptmann of the German Schutzmannschaft 201 auxiliary police battalion, a military leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army , and one of the organizers of the Halych-Volhyn Massacre.Image Credit: Wikipedia

Of course, the Ukrainian President is not a neo-Nazi, but prominent members of ultranationalist groups such as The Right Sector commonly in government and local government positions. That is not the case in the Russian Federation. Nor has there been a coup in Moscow led by ultranationalist or neo-Nazis as there was in Kiev in February 2014 when the democratically elected government of Ukraine was overthrown.

And consider this. Ultranationalist or neo-Nazi rallies have been common in Ukraine over the last decade – but not in Russia.

Activists of various nationalist parties carry torches during a rally in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. Image credit: The Times of Israel: Hundreds of Ukrainian nationalists march in honor of Nazi collaborator.

In fact, the Lithuanian article I have used actually points out:

“The strong despise towards anything Nazi and Fascist, which in Russia often come as synonyms, is deeply rooted in the society.”

That is why the equivalent street demonstration in Russia are more likely to be those of the Immortal regiment.

Image credit: Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS

Tass said in ‘Immortal Regiment’ march breaks record in Moscow with over 1mln participants – police:

The ‘Immortal Regiment’ march is an annual event held throughout Russia and in other countries. The event is dedicated to the victory in the Great Patriotic War (or WWII) that claimed lives of about 28 million Soviet people, both soldiers and civilians. During the march, people carry portraits of their relatives who fought or died during the war.

Finally, the Immortal Regiment marches held on Victory Day underline the difference between Ukraine and the Russian Federation when it comes to the attitude towards neo-Nazis. Whereas these demonstrations are annual events throughout Russia that have only become possible again in eastern Ukraine after the defeat of the Ukrainian ultranationalist like the Azov Battalion.

Russian soldier guarding the “Immortal Regiment” march in Melitopol, 9 May (Credit: Telegram/RIA “Melitopol”) Geneva Solutions.

Ukraine/Russia war, an intelligence operation or a sting, Ukrainian and UK spies, and Bellingcat

It sounds like a story from spy fiction or a James Bond film, but it was a real-life drama involving an intelligence plan to entice a Russian pilot to defect to Ukraine with his high-tech plane – if you believe the Russian side. Or a scam by a group of maverick non-intelligence Ukrainian which recovered intelligence information for the Ukrainians.

The Russian side claims they were given important military information which enabled them to r=eradicate a number of targets in Ukraine. The other side claims their little plot enabled them to expose a number of Russian intelligence agents – members of the FSB. If you believe the self-styled investigative agency Bellingcat, which was allegedly involved.

It could also be that whatever the truth this episode could be the reason a large number of members of the Ukrainian intelligence agency, the SBU, were recently sacked and now face charges of treason.

The story itself does not interest me – readers can get the Russian side of the story from the video above. Also useful are comments from a British guy, iEarlGrey, currently living in St Petersburg, who produces a YouTube channel with daily critical commentary on the news in Russian and Western media.

What does interest me is that a leading member of Bellingcat was involved. This outfit markets itself as an objective investigative news agency but actually receives funding from western government and intelligence agencies (see How Bellingcat launders National Security State talking points into the press).

The involvement of a high-ranking Bellingcat member, or indeed a member of any media agency, in an intelligence action, is concerning. It should ring alarm bells to readers. How can a news agency which is closely involved with intelligence agencies and actively working in intelligent actions be considered as providing anything like reliable news?

People on the Russian side who claim they were to receive cash from Ukrainian and NATO intelligence agencies for the hijack of the plane have outed Christo Grozev, the Bellingcat investigator, as their contact for the cash and orders. Effectively Grozev admitted in Twitter posts to being involved in the operation.

I have followed Grozev on Twitter for quite a while – probably initially because of his Bellingcat links. But lately, I have experienced him as someone who is naively pro-Ukraine – continually tweeting some of the more fantastic stories Ukrainians have produced about this war. So, someone who does not come across as an objective journalist. In fact, I had come to see his accounts as just another one of the many accounts to Ukrainian government has set up to spread disinformation about the war.

No one should trust Bellingcat

Anyone who has followed the activities of Bellingcat and its founder Eliot Higgens will be aware that it is not a trustworthy news or investigative source. It clearly has strong links with intelligence agencies and NATO governments. It presents a picture of rigorous investigation of open-access sources and is consequently often used by the mainstream media as a source. Like the White Helmets in Syria which is linked to jihadi antigovernment and terrorist sources, it is often used by governments and intelligence agencies to plant disinformation in the mainstream media. A bit like many think tanks. This method is used to overcome the lack of credibility most governments have.

Now and then I experience people assuring me of the facts of a particular news item by referring to their source as Bellingcat or the White Helmets. All that tells me is that the person giving me these assurances has not bothered to really check the information. They may have simply been fooled by the description of the White Helmets or Bellingcat as non-governmental groups funded by public donations. In most cases, these people are simply indulging in confirmation bias, and think citing the names of these groups lends credibility to the information.

It doesn’t.

Ukraine war – a shocking failure of our mainstream media

The well-known, and well-respected, international journalist John Pilger describes the war between Ukraine and Russia as “above all, a war of propaganda.”

He says that nothing in the western press about this war can be trusted implicitly. That the reader or viewer must develop all their skill of scepticism in their following of news reports on this war.

I have always felt the need for scepticism and questioning of any media but agree it has really got awfully bad now. In a sense, the population has been well prepared for this propaganda onslaught because they have been exposed to such propaganda for many years.

Only this can explain the willing acceptance of media censorship, the acceptance of a propaganda narrative leading to imposing collective responsibility on a whole nation of people despite their individual attitudes towards the war. What we have seen is a mass operation of confirmation bias leading to the acceptance of such actions which surely violate the human values of justice most of us have been brought up to accept.

The trouble is, the confirmation bias and wishful thinking which have guided media presentations and our acceptance of this propaganda must, in the end, be challenged by the facts on the ground.

How will people who have willingly given along with such acceptance of propaganda react when the stories about the wars, both the military and economic wars, are shown to be false?

How is the war going?

The war in Ukraine is dragging on and many people have lost interest in it. But those who want to follow the progress of the war, and possibly speculate on how it will finish, must find it hard to find objective information. Like all wars, there is so much fake news, disinformation, and outright wishful thinking on the part of analysts.

I basically ignore articles in the news media and instead attempt to follow direct information from war correspondents and journalists. A few video channels provide largely objective information summaries with maps which enables viewers to get an overall idea of the war’s progress,

Here are some YouTube channels I watch that are usually updated daily. I have ranked these with those I consider the best first.

Military Summary Channel

The guy running the Military Summary channel seems to be a military expert. His summaries often provide information like the number of battle groups in each area, which is lacking in other summaries. He also does get into speculating on the likelihood of impending battles. He comes across as very knowledgeable but objective

Defense Politics Asia

Defense Politics Asia is run by a guy from Singapore. He has a Singaporean sense of humour and is always checking and reevaluating his sources and information so often makes changes when he can get verification of a claim.

War in Ukraine

The War in Ukraine summaries of harder to understand, if only because his maps are less detailed. He does also provide extra information which I find sometimes good (like his analysis of the situation in Lithuania regarding the blockage of the Kaliningrad) and sometimes not so good like his analysis of the likely future wheat yields in Russia and how that would affect its economy).

New World Econ

New World Econ is a new channel for me, so I am still evaluating it. It seems good and does cover wider issues

Denys Davydov

Denys Davydov is a Ukrainian pilot and is clearly biased toward Ukraine so it comes across as a bit naive. Still worth watching because it does give an idea of what Ukrainians may be pinning their hopes on.

The economic war

There is also an economic war, based on the sanctions and their effect on the Russian economy and Western economies – particularly those of the NATO countries but also the rest of the world. It’s much harder to find convincing and objective information on this. I have my own sources, but I think it is up to readers to use the sources they feel most comfortable with.

War and the loss of young lives are horrible, but I think the economic war may end up being more important than the military war as its outcome will, in the long run, affect us all.

What about those Russian neo-Nazis?

Some defenders of Ukrainian neo-Nazis claim Nashi is a Russian neo-Nazi group or at least links the Kremlin to a neo-Nazi subculture. Image credit: Wikipedia

Moving on in my critique of the article mentioned in the first post of this series (see Confusion about neo-Nazis in Ukraine-Russia war). Peter Ballie cited the article as some sort of proof that there are:

“neo-Nazi groups operating, not in Ukraine, but in Russia. Fully aided and abetted by Putin, to quash democratic dissent to his rule and provide an excuse for autocratic extension of power.”

Peter accepts there are neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine – or at least has not criticised my coverage of that aspect in my first and second posts (see Neo-Nazis in Ukraine – stages of denial).

He also accepts my general assessment of the conversation article. I wrote that the author used “naive arguments” in his dismissal of evidence for neo-Nazis in Ukraine and this “destroys his credibility right at the start. His motive is obviously to deny the presence and influence of neo-Nazis in Ukraine and to divert attention from the real facts.”

If I am misrepresenting Peter, I hope he comments here to straighten things out. (I am simply interpreting his comments made in another forum).

Now, getting on to what Peter describes as the “central theme” of the article he promoted – the presence of neo-Nazi groups in Russia which are “fully aided and abetted by Putin.” (For reference this is the article by Robert Horvath, Putin’s fascists: the Russian state’s long history of cultivating homegrown neo-Nazis).

Are the neo-Nazi groups in Russia?

Of course they are. There are neo-Nazi groups are in most countries – including New Zealand as we are painfully aware. The Russian Federation is a multi-ethnic country with large numbers of immigrants so it’s hardly surprising that there are groups espousing ideas of ethnic supremacy, hostility to immigrants, hostility to Russian minority ethnic groups and hostility of members of minority ethnic groups against the ethnic Russia majority. If you don’t believe this familiarise yourself with what happened in the Beslan school siege.

No one denies this fact. There is a concise comment by President Putin about this – unfortunately, with the current censorship, I cannot find it. But perhaps readers will accept this comment by Sergei Ivanov, Chief of Staff of Putin’s Presidential Executive Office given in an interview to Russia Today TV Channel. Answering a question about the defeat of Hitler’s Germany and the growing neo-Nazi movement in Europe Ivanov said:

“Well, it’s different in different countries. Let’s put it this way. In Baltic states, in Ukraine now you can see openly Nazi marches. With torches, with Nazi symbols, they are open. And we are very much concerned that local governments do nothing to prevent it. There is also some rise of neo-Nazism in European countries, which you have already mentioned. And I have to be objective, there is some neo-Nazi movement – it’s not very popular, but it exists – in Russia. [My emphasis] And we are very strict in both legal forms of fighting it, and also moral forms. Because if the bulk of Russians knew what Nazism was, what an inhuman ideology it was, it’s like a medical shot, if I may put it that way, to prevent the Nazi ideas or Nazi ideology from spreading. So it’s very important from the point of view of true history and from the point of view of everyone knowing what happened 70 years ago.”

Not as concise as Putin’s statement but it will suffice.

So, Russia does have neo-Nazis. Peter is correct with that part of his assertion, but it is as trivial as saying we have neo-Nazis in New Zealand. Maybe Peter  disagrees with Ivanov that they are not popular and are treated strictly – he is welcome to debate this with some evidence. So far, what is the evidence for Peter’s claim that the Russian neo-Nazi groups are “fully aided and abetted by Putin.”

He doesn’t give any and simply cites the Robert Horvath article as “evidence.” Let’s see what this says and what evidence it presents.

The only groups Robert Horvath really mentions, and Wikipedia provides information on, are Nashi and Born

“Nashi” or “Ours”

According to Wikipedia, this group used to be “a political youth movement in Russia which declared itself to be a democratic, anti-fascist, anti-“oligarchic-capitalist” movement. It appears to have been pro-Putin, or pro-Kremlin, electorally and has been compared with the Soviet Komsomol. Russian electoral politics are complex, but the leader of Nashi formed a political party in 2012 and its chairman was elected to the Duma that year. In principle that party would have been in opposition to the Party which supported Putin for president.

Nashi was dissolved in 2019.

I am sure that Nashi had all sorts of scandals, typical of such youth organisations, and had relationships with politicians – but a neo-Nazi group? I think not.

Mind you, the author Robert Horvath seems to get around this by claiming, without evidence, that Nashi and similar groups were bridges between the Kremlin and some undefined “neo-Nazi subculture.”  That claim is not convincing – it might conclude with Horvath’s biases, but it is evidence-free.

BORN – Fighting organization of Russian nationalists

Wikipedia describes BORN as:

“a group of right-wing radical Russian nationalists , also known as a neo-Nazi group. The gang members were charged with a series of murders and attempted murders. In 2011, one of the leaders and founders of the organization, Nikita Tikhonov, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova , and his cohabitant Evgenia Khasis received 18 years in prison. In April 2015, Maxim Baklagin and Vyacheslav Isaev were sentenced to life imprisonment, Mikhail Volkov was sentenced to 24 years in prison. In July 2015, the founder of the organization, Ilya Goryachev , was sentenced to life imprisonment for organizing a gang, five murders, and illegal arms trafficking. The existence of BORN as an organized criminal group is questioned by the defendants’ lawyers.”

A nasty group but no evidence that it is “fully aided and abetted by Putin.” Far from it if their leaders are in prison.

Horvath makes vague but unsubstantiated allegations of links of BORN with politicians. But simply citing a TV discussion programme involving a range of people from different backgrounds and organisations is not evidence of a link. And certainly not evidence that BORN was “fully aided and abetted by Putin.”

The sort of evidence presented by Robert Horvath in his article is, in my experience, typical of comparable articles I have read that claim the Russian Federation has a huge problem with neo-Nazis. Misrepresenting existing or liquidated mainstream groups like Nashi, mentioning real neo-Nazi groups which are illegal, referring to members who are currently in prison for crimes, etc., is not evidence for such a claim.

So, yes, there are neo-Nazi groups in Russia – as there are in many countries. But no there is no evidence they are “aided and abetted by Putin.” 

Comparing Ukraine and Russia regarding neo-Nazis

The difference between Ukraine and Russia on this question is obvious from these two photographs taken of regular public manifestations regarding Nazis.

Kiev 2022

Activists of various nationalist parties carry torches during a rally in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. Image credit: The Times of Israel: Hundreds of Ukrainian nationalists march in honor of Nazi collaborator.

Euromaidan press said this about the equivalent 2018 demonstration:

“a relatively peaceful march to commemorate the UPA, Ukraine’s WWII-era Insurgent Army, was held in Kyiv, where roughly 15,000 nationalists, according to the police, marched through the Ukrainian capital. Apart from veterans of the Donbas war, many Ukrainian right-wing parties took part, among them: Right Sector, Svoboda, National Corps (founded on the base of the Azov regiment and civic movements surrounding it), Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, activists of C14 and others. However, not only Ukrainian parties took part: German media noted the participation of Junge Nationalisten, the youth wing of the most radical extreme-right Germany party NPD, which is usually described as Neonazi, in the mix”

Moscow, May 9, 2022

I am not aware of any corresponding regular neo-Nazi marches in Russia, although there appear to have been some occasions of their participation in, or conflict with the organisers of, patriotic marches. But this event is relevant. It occurred in Moscow on Victory Day this year.

Image credit: Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS

Tass said in ‘Immortal Regiment’ march breaks record in Moscow with over 1mln participants – police:

The ‘Immortal Regiment’ march is an annual event held throughout Russia and in other countries. The event is dedicated to the victory in the Great Patriotic War (or WWII) that claimed lives of about 28 million Soviet people, both soldiers and civilians. During the march, people carry portraits of their relatives who fought or died during the war.

These photos illustrate the difference between Ukraine and the Russian Federation as far as neo-Nazis are concerned.

In summary, my response to Peter Baillie’s claim is – yes there are neo-Nazis in Russia, but they are not parading in annual street demonstrations, do not have influence in the government and do not have armed militia groups suppressing ethnic minorities.

Peter’s assertion and the claims made by Robert Horvath are simply attempting to divert attention away from the real problem Ukraine has with neo-Nazis. That is also a problem for the rest of the world as the US is very influential and if we remember that the US and Ukraine are the only countries refusing to condemn the glorification of Nazis in the regular UN General Assembly vote on this topic.

A Lesson – citation is not evidence

The main lesson from this discussion is “reader beware.” There is just so much fake information out there – disinformation. We are in the middle of an extreme information war. So, one should read articles like this critically and intelligently. Determine if the stories are credible, if there is evidence presented, and what part bias and wishful thinking are involved.

But a second reason for readers to beware is our own prejudices and wishful thinking. Don’t simply seize on articles that confirm your bias and present them as “proof”. Importantly don’t simply rely on citation of cited articles as some sort of proof. Unfortunately, people who naively rely on citation often have not properly read the article they cite or made a proper judgement of its credibility. When pressed for proper evidence those people often retreat from discussion of the issues.

Peter could have made a better case if he had discussed information he had or thought he had, instead of simply citing an article as evidence. But he can move on and present proper information in the discussion below

The real lessons from Vladimir Putin’s re-election

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of RT TV channel. Image credit: RIA Novosti

I don’t pretend to know what the Russian voters think, or even what Vladimir Putin thinks (although a lot of media commenters seem to claim they do). But given the overwhelming record-breaking support President Putin received in last Sunday’s election, the question of why he has so much support is an important one.

This article by Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of RT TV channel, helps me understand what has happened. In part because as someone who always considered himself a “liberal” I found it difficult to understand why apparently “conservative” forces are so popular in the Russian Federation. Margarita’s description of how political hysteria and Russophobia in the west has caused a reaction among Russians. As she says: “you’ve pushed us to rally around your enemy. Immediately, after you declared him an enemy, we united around him.”

I can understand that – after all, I no longer like to call myself a “liberal” – precisely because “liberals” have, by the actions, made the term meaningless (see “Fire and Fury” exposes the fundamental problems of the anti-Trump movement).

The article was published in RIA Novosti  but a translated version is available at The Saker and at Russian Insider.

Why we don’t respect the West anymore

Essentially, the West should be horrified not because 76% of Russians voted for Putin, but because these elections have demonstrated that 95% of Russia’s population supports conservative-patriotic, communist and nationalist ideas. That means that liberal ideas are barely surviving among a measly 5% of the population.

And that’s your fault, my Western friends. It was you who pushed us into “Russians never surrender” mode.

I’ve been telling you for a long time to find normal advisers on Russia. Sack all those parasites. With their short-sighted sanctions, heartless humiliation of our athletes (including athletes with disabilities ), with their “skripals” and ostentatious disregard of the most basic liberal values, like a presumption of innocence, that they manage to hypocritically combined with forcible imposition of ultra-liberal ideas in their own countries, their epileptic mass hysteria, causing in a healthy person a sigh of relief that he lives  in Russia, and not in Hollywood, with their post-electoral mess in the United States, in Germany, and in the Brexit-zone; with their attacks on RT, which they cannot forgive for taking advantage of the freedom of speech and showing to the world how to use it, and it turned out that the freedom of speech never was intended to be used for good, but was invented as an object of beauty, like some sort of crystal mop that shines from afar, but is not suitable to clean your stables, with all your injustice and cruelty, inquisitorial hypocrisy and lies you forced us to stop respecting you. You and your so-called “values.”

We don’t want to live like you live, anymore. For fifty years, secretly and openly, we wanted to live like you, but not any longer.

We have no more respect for you, and for those among us that you support, and for all those people who support you. That’s how this 5% came to be.

For that, you only have yourself to blame. And also your Western politicians and analysts, newsmakers and scouts.

Our people are capable to forgive a lot. But we don’t forgive arrogance, and no normal nation would.

Your only remaining Empire would be wise to learn the history of its allies, all of them are former empires. To learn the ways they lost their empires. Only because of their arrogance.

White man’s burden, my ass (in English in the original text – trans.)

But the only Empire, you have left, ignores history, it doesn’t teach it and refuses to learn it,  meaning that it all will end the way it always does, in such cases.

In meantime, you’ve pushed us to rally around your enemy. Immediately, after you declared him an enemy, we united around him.

Before, he was just our President, who could be reelected. Now, he has become our Leader. We won’t let you change this.  And it was you, who created this situation.

It was you who imposed an opposition between patriotism and liberalism. Although, they shouldn’t be mutually exclusive notions. This false dilemma, created by you, made us choose patriotism.

Even though many of us are really liberals, myself included.

Get cleaned up, now. You don’t have much time left.

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What do Syrians think of the new cessation of hostilities agreement?

Cautious optimism seems to be a common international response to the cessation of hostilities deal announced for Syria by John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov yesterday. But what do Syrians think?

RT’s correspondent Lizzie Phelan did some live recording of the views of residents in a South Aleppo suburb. It seems they will make the most of the cessation of hostilities but think there won’t be any resolution until the  foreign terrorists leave their land.

Our media usually restricts itself to covering the small part of Aleppo held by “rebels”/”terrorists” so it is refreshing to hear from the rest of this city.

Thanks to  ‘No moderate rebels here’: RT talks with Aleppo civilians on new ceasefire deal.

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Why doesn’t Putin shirtfront someone?


A 10-month-old girl gazing at the planes in St. Petersburg airport before departing to Egypt – this picture has become the symbol of the plane crash in Sinai on social media. Image credit: Darina Gromova © vk.com/id72829

Can’t help being provocative here.

Surely if the Russian authorities want a clear answer to what caused the crash of the Airbus A-321 in the Sinai Peninsula they have only to call on some renowned “experts” like Tony Abbott (ex Australian PM), US President Barack Obama, UK PM David Cameron or a few of the newspapers who are fond of pronouncing judgment. These “experts’ were able to confidently assign guilt within hours for the crash of the Malaysian MH17  in eastern Ukraine last year! They were very confident in their attributing blame, very loud – and, what’s more, imposed economic and political sanctions pretty well straight away.

Why are the Russian authorities so backward? Why is their Foreign Ministry’s  spokeswoman Maria Zakharova so reluctant to apportion blame by saying:

“How can we talk about any version, when our experts have only just begun to work on the site of the crash?”

Why did the Russian Foreign Ministry say on Monday that debating the reasons for the crash of the Russian Airbus A-321 in Egypt is “premature?”

Do these Russian authorities not have the same love for these civilian victims (mostly citizens of the Russian Federation) that Tony Abbott, President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron had for the innocent victims of the MH17 crash?

Abbott had no doubt from the very beginning that Vladimir Putin was directly responsible for the MH17 tragedy and threatened to “shirtfront” Putin at the Brisbane G20 leaders meeting.

Now, our media keep telling us what a rude and brazen person Putin is. Why isn’t he threatening to “shirtfront” someone? Why hasn’t Putin already apportioned blame and expressed the same supreme confidence in a scenario that we were exposed to last year over MH17.

Is Putin a weak leader who couldn’t care less about the plight of his people?

Or were Tony Abbott, Barack Obama, David Cameron, etc., simply attempting to make political capital out of a tragedy?


The London Times had no trouble identifying the culprit last year – it didn’t have to wait for any evidence.

Is, in fact, Putin illustrating what a real responsible leader should do? Is he just being true to his request over MH17 that political leaders stop using the tragedy for political purposes and wait to see the findings of the investigation instead of launching a lynching party without any evidence.


St Petersburg: Russian mourns victims of plane crash in Egypt. Image credit: Moscow Times.

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70th anniversary of first use of atomic weapon against civilians

Image credit: The Human Survival Project

Today is the 70th anniversary of the first ever use of an atomic weapon against humans – civilians at that.  The US dropped the bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Two days later they dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

There will be a lot of information circulating about this incident and its military and political significance. However, the Russian Historical Society has published an historical document which could be of interest. It is the just declassified report from Soviet ambassador to Japan on the aftermath of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is from the Archive of Foreign Policy of Russia. The report was recorded a month after the attacks.

The original report is available on-line at Report of the Soviet ambassador to Japan about the state of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb. For those who do not read Russian here are the highlights (thanks to Fort Russ – Russia declassifies the report on the aftermath of the US nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki):


The train terminal and the city of Hiroshima were destroyed so much that there was no shelter to hide from the rain.
The city was a scorched plain with 15-20 cement buildings left standing.
Several dozen thousand people huddled in the dugouts on the outskirts of the city.
People who came to help the victims during the first 5-10 days died.
A month after the bombing grass began to grow and new leaves appeared on the burned trees.
Glass windows in the cement building of police department, which was left standing, blew out inward. The ceiling was bulging upwards.
The zone of impact was 6-8 kilometers, where all the buildings were damaged.
At 5-6 kilometers mostly roofs were damaged.
Some areas were not affected by the rays, suggesting that the energy was expelled unequally by bursts. Some people who were close to the injured did not receive any burns. This pertains to sections significantly removed from the impact.
Everything alive was destroyed in the radius of one kilometer.
The sound and the flash were heard and seen 50 kilometers away.
On person reported seeing a flash and feeling a touch of a warm stream on his cheek and a needle pinch.
Many people only had injuries from shattered glass.
Burns were mainly on the face, arms and legs.
A doctor reported seeing three bombs dropped on parachutes, two of which did not explode and were collected by the military. The doctor experienced diarrhea after drinking the water. Other rescuers got sick after 36 hours. The doctor said that in those affected the white blood cell count reduced from 8000 per cubic centimeter to 3,000, 1,000 and even 300, which causes bleeding from nose, throat, eyes, and from the uterus in females. The injured die after 3-4 days.
The injured, who are evacuated heal faster. Those who drank or rinsed with water in the impact area died thereafter.
After a month it was considered safe to stay in the impact zone, however it was still not conclusive.
According to the doctor, rubber clothing offered protection against uranium, as well as any material which is a conductor of electricity.
A girl who visited the area a few days after the blast got sick in 1-2 weeks and died 3 days after.
Nagasaki is divided into two sections by a mountain. The section sheltered from the blast by a mountain had much less destruction.
Japanese driver in Nagasaki said no rescue work was done on the day of the bombing, because the city was engulfed in fire.
Nagasaki bomb was dropped over a university hospital in Urakami district (near a Mitsubishi plant), all the patients and the staff of the hospital died.
The driver said, some children who were up on the trees [playing?] survived, but those on the ground died.Most people in Hiroshima said the bomb was dropped on a parachute and detonated 500-600 feet above the ground.
The head of the sanitary service of the 5th American fleet, commander Willkatts said that no parachutes were used in the dropping of the bombs. He also said no bomb could fall without detonating.
He said after the bombing the zone of impact is safe and the Japanese are exaggerating the effects of a nuclear bomb.

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Don’t put all the blame on the Germans – a lesson from World War II


Sculpture of the “Unbowed man” at the Khatyn Memorial site. The sculpture depicts Yuzif Kaminsky, the only adult to survive the massacre, holding his dead son Adam. Credit: John Oldale.Click to enlarge

The recent commemorations of Victory Day in Europe – the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war in Europe – got me thinking about how we refer to Germany as the perpetrator of the horrors in that war. Often we more correctly use the term “Nazi Germany” – but still it must place a burden of guilt on many Germans who were, and are innocent.

On the other hand, it seems to me, it almost ignores the very real responsibility of people from other nations for these atrocities. (Although, granted some speakers will also refer to involvement of collaborators).

The Khatyn Massacre

Many years ago I visited the war memorial at Khatyn, in Belarus. This was a very moving experience because it symbolised how that nation had lost a quarter of its population during the war. All the residents of this village had been herded into barns which were then set alight – anyone attempting to escape was shot. The photo above shows part of the memorial depicting the man who was thought to be the sole survivor.

Very moving.

I certainly got the impression that this horror was perpetrated by German soldiers. But my reading in recent days convinces me I was wrong, and had been wrongly informed. The perpetrators were a nazi battalion – but one established in Kiev and made up mainly of Ukrainian nationalists. Here are some details from the Wikipedia entry on the Khatyn massacre:

Khatyn or Chatyń (Belarusian and Russian: Хаты́нь, pronounced [xɐˈtɨnʲ]) was a village of 26 houses and 156 inhabitants in Belarus, in Lahoysk Raion, Minsk Region, 50 km away from Minsk. On 22 March 1943, the entire population of the village was massacred by the 118th Schutzmannschaft Nazi battalion. The battalion was formed in July 1942 in Kiev and was made up mostly of Ukrainian nationalist collaborators from Western Ukraine, Hiwis[1][2][3] and the DirlewangerWaffen-SS special battalion.

The massacre was not an unusual incident in Belarus during World War II. At least 5,295 Belarusian settlements were burned and destroyed by the Nazis, and often all their inhabitants were killed (some amounting up to 1,500 victims) as a punishment for collaboration with partisans. Khatyn became a symbol of all those villages. In the Vitebsk region, 243 villages were burned down twice, 83 villages three times, and 22 villages were burned down four or more times. In the Minsk region, 92 villages were burned down twice, 40 villages three times, nine villages four times, and six villages five or more times.[4] Altogether, over 2,000,000 people were killed in Belarus during the three years of Nazi occupation, almost a quarter of the country’s population.[5][6]

It’s worth following up some of the links for more details.

The Ukrainian Auxiliary Police, which included the Schutzmannschaft Nazis involved in this and many other massacres, carried out anti-Jewish and anti-partisan operations in most areas of Ukraine. While these units were formed directly after the German invasion of the USSR in 1941 Ukrainian nationalist organisations existed before that invasion. These extremist organisations were not just “nationalist,” but were racist – expressing hatred for Poles, Jews and above all, Russians. And these three groups became their victims during the war.

Misinforming tourists

I had happily accepted the story that the Khatyn Massacre was perpetrated by “Nazis” – assuming they were German Nazis. So this information came as a bit of a shock to me. Worse – the role of such nationalist forces was not talked about much during Soviet times in fear of encouraging antagonism between the different republics. So innocent tourists were left in the dark about the true origins of the perpetrators – despite the fact that the leaders of the battalion involved had been brought to justice. As Wikipedia says:

“The commander of one of the platoons of 118th Schutzmannschaft Battalion, Ukrainian Vasyl Meleshko, was tried in a Soviet court and executed in 1975. The Chief of Staff of 118th Schutzmannschaft Battalion, Ukrainian Grigory Vassiura, was tried in Minsk in 1986 and found guilty of all his crimes. He was sentenced to death by the verdict of the military tribunal of the Belorussian military district.

The case and the trial of the main executioner of Khatyn was not given much publicity in the media; the leaders of the Soviet republics worried about the inviolability of unity between the Belarusian and Ukrainian peoples.”

A lesson for today

So the message is – when your hear about Nazi atrocities the perpetrators were not necessarily German. We should not forget the role played by collaborators and non-German nationalists in the Holocaust and other atrocities.

epa04318197 New soldiers of Ukrainian army battalion 'Azov' attend their oath of allegiance ceremony before departing to eastern Ukraine in Kiev, Ukraine, 16 July 2014. The government in Kiev does not recognize the declared independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and pro-Russian militants refuse to cooperate with the pro-European leadership in Kiev. Ukraine insisted that there would be no ceasefire or negotiations before the pro-Russian separatists in the country's east give up their arms.  EPA/ROMAN PILIPEY

New soldiers of Ukrainian army battalion ‘Azov’ attend their oath of allegiance ceremony before departing to eastern Ukraine in Kiev, Ukraine, 16 July 2014.Image Credit: EPA/ROMAN PILIPEY

And this is not an abstract appeal. Today the inheritors of the Ukrainian nationalist organisations which committed these atrocities are alive and very active in Ukraine. They even have military battalions fighting in the current civil war. Worse, the US has now sent their own troops into Ukraine to train National Guard battalions which include units like the Azov Batallion which is based on extreme National Socialist ideology.

Talk about a slippery slope.

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