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Cablegate: Continued Pressure On National Bolsheviks

VZCZCXRO2243
OO RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #0916/01 0941314
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 031314Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7466
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 MOSCOW 000916

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL KDEM PINR RS
SUBJECT: CONTINUED PRESSURE ON NATIONAL BOLSHEVIKS

Ref: Moscow 829 (notal)

1. (SBU) Summary: Eduard Limonov's outlawed National Bolshevik
Party (NBP) has been frequently in the news recently as a series of
relatively high-profile court cases have resulted in the jail
sentences for young NBP activists. On March 24, a Moscow court
sentenced seven NBP activists to up to two years in jail on charges
of armed hooliganism, and a recent raid in Nizhniy Novgorod region
(reftel) resulted in the detention of still more NBP youth. Limonov
contends that 138 NBP members are in jail for crimes that he
contends are political. Mainstream Moscow-based human rights
organizations agree that the organization's members have been
subject to harsh treatment, but for reasons ranging from Limonov's
scandalous reputation to the occasional propensity of NBP youth to
engage in violence, have tended to keep their distance from the
movement. End summary.

Seven National Bolsheviks Convicted
-----------------------------------

2. (SBU) On March 24, the Taganskiy District Court in Moscow
sentenced seven activists of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP) -
Roman Popkov, Nazir Magomedov, Sergey Medvedev, Vladimir Titov,
Yelena Borovskaya, Aleksey Makarov and Dmitriy Yelizarov - for their
role in an April 13, 2006, incident outside the Taganskiy Court,
which at that time was hearing a National Bolshevik complaint over
the Justice Ministry's decision to ban the group for purported
extremist activity. NBP activists claim they were ambushed outside
the court by members of the pro-Kremlin youth group "Mestnye," who
pelted them with bottles, eggs, and pepper spray. The Court found
on March 24, however, that NBP had first resorted to violence.
Limonov admitted to us that his activists used air pistols in the
scuffle; however, he added, "they are not illegal weapons and
besides, my people were only protecting me and themselves." Limonov
told us that at that time no one was arrested, and the only person
detained was a member from youth group "Nashi." As a result of the
scuffle one NBP activist was hospitalized, Limonov said.

3. (SBU) The Taganskiy court gave, by Russian standards, relatively
light sentences, ranging from one and one-half to two and one-half
years in prison, despite the prosecutors' request that the activists
be sentenced from three to five years. Following the verdict,
Dmitriy Agranovskiy, a lawyer for three of the convicted NBP
activists, told reporters it could have been a lot worse.
Agranovskiy plans to take the case to the European Court of Human
Rights.

4. (SBU) Aleksandr Averin, Limonov's press-secretary and a
spokesman for the NBP said the light sentences signified a de facto
recognition by the judge of the activists' innocence, but that
activists would appeal the verdicts in order to clear their criminal
records. Limonov told us on March 25, however, that he was
generally content with the outcome of the court decision and he was
not planning to appeal a lesser sentence, because in an appeal
Russian prosecutors have the right to argue for an even harsher
sentence. The seven have already served all or part of their
sentences in pretrial detention since their arrest in 2006.

Velvet Terrorism
----------------


5. (SBU) The National Bolshevik Party was founded by Eduard Limonov
in 1993 after he returned to Russia from years of exile abroad.
Although he has often shifted course, the idea of revolution and the
means to achieve it - the young people - have remained constants.
Limonov maintains that young Russians, "physically the most powerful
group in society," are regarded by authorities as "the internal
enemy," just as the Chechens are seen as the external one.
Disaffected youth are Russia's "most exploited class" in Limonov's
view and, as he readily admits, his core supporters.

6. (SBU) Limonov works closely with the liberal-minded, former
world chess champion, and Other Russia leader Garry Kasparov. The
two are strange bedfellows. "Russia is rich in generals without
armies, but Limonov has foot soldiers. He commands street power,"
Kasparov has said about Limonov. Limonov has been less
complimentary about Kasparov, describing him as "not a good
diplomat." Limonov also has ties with the Communist Party of Russia
(KPRF) which, until the NBP was held by the courts to be an
extremist organization, allowed it to hold meetings on KPRF
premises.

7. (SBU) Since the summer of 2003, the NBP has escalated its
campaign of "direct actions," that have often led to prison terms.
Limonov has provided Embassy with a list of what he says are 138 NBP
political prisoners in jails in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and
Latvia.

8. (SBU) The organization's "velvet terrorism," as Limonov has
called it, begun in August 2003, when a NBP activist squirted a pack

MOSCOW 00000916 002 OF 004


of mayonnaise at Aleksandr Veshnyakov, then chairman of the Central
Election Commission, and shouted: "Maniac Veshnyakov! Stop enacting
this farce!" Later, NBP activists (often referred to as "Nazbols")
pelted Communist leader Gennadiy Zyuganov with tomatoes, and threw
eggs at Putin's first Prime Minister, Mikhail Kasyanov, on Election
Day in December 2003.

9. (SBU) In the summer of 2004, after a new law cut subsidies to
the poor and elderly, NBP members raided the Russian Ministry of
Health, three dozen party members took over offices on two floors,
including the minister's. Seven NBP activists received prison
sentences of two and one-half to three years for their participation
in this action.

10. (SBU) After the May Day celebration in 2005, two young NBP
activists hung an anti-government slogan on the Rossiya Hotel. From
a height of eleven stories, Olga Kudrina, a 22-year-old Muscovite
and Yevgeniy Logovskiy, a 20-year-old from the city of Arzamas,
unfurled a 40-foot banner emblazoned with the message "Putin uidi
sam!"("Putin Resign!"). Kudrina and Logovskiy also managed to drop
leaflets offering further advice: "Dive After the Kursk!" - a
reference to the submarine that sank in the Barents Sea in 2000,
killing all 118 sailors on board. After two and one-half hours the
two activists were arrested. Logovskiy received a suspended
sentence, while Kudrina was sentenced to three and one-half years.
In February of this year, Kudrina received political asylum in
Ukraine. Another NBP activist, Mikhail Gangan is currently awaiting
a decision from Ukrainian authorities on his asylum application.

11. (SBU) On March 9, Anna Ploskonosova, a 20-year-old National
Bolshevik activist from Tula who was facing charges of assaulting a
police officer, submitted her asylum application to immigration
officials in the central Ukrainian city of Vinnitsa. Ploskonosova
is the latest of the organization's activists to flee to Ukraine to
escape what National Bolsheviks call "fabricated criminal cases"
against them.

12. (SBU) Ploskonosova's fiance, Yuriy Chervochkin, 22, was a
National Bolshevik activist in the Moscow region city of Serpukhov.
On November 22, 2007, he was discovered unconscious outside his
apartment building after apparently having been savagely beaten,
hours after he called a reporter from Kasparov's organization to
report that he was being followed by local police. He died on
December 10 after spending three weeks in a coma. No suspects have
been identified or detained in connection with the attack.

13. (SBU) On March 20 (reftel), law enforcement in Nizhniy Novgorod
region arrested NBP members in Arzamas and Nizhniy Novgorod who were
allegedly publishing an NBP newspaper, an activity that became
illegal with the banning of the NBP as extremist.

14. (SBU) On March 31, the Odintsovo Court sentenced Sergey Klimov
and Vladimir Sidorin to two and one-half years under Article 141,
Part 2 ("obstruction of the electoral rights or the work of
electoral commissions"). On March 11, 2007, the two activists and
Chervochkin disrupted elections at a regional polling station in
Odintsovo, a town in the Moscow region. Shouting the slogan "Your
elections are a farce!" they occupied the premises of electoral
commission. Chervochkin was imprisoned for about a month, and was
awaiting a trial at the time he was murdered. Limonov claims that
Chervochkin was killed by members of the special militia forces for
the struggle against terrorism and political extremism of RUBOP
(Regional Directorate for Combating Organized Crime).

Muted Response from Human Rights Community
to NBP's Problems
------------------------------------------

15. (SBU) The travails of NBP adherents have provoked little
reaction from the Russian, or international, human rights community.
In a March 16 meeting, the doyenne of Russia's human rights
community, the Moscow Helsinki Group's Lyudmila Alekseyeva, told us
that she felt that she had to tread carefully with the NBP. Their
aggressive behavior and their refusal to shy away from confrontation
with the police or Kremlin-sponsored opponents, in addition to their
fringe ideology, had many them a cause difficult to embrace.
Contributing to Alekseyeva's reluctance has no doubt been the
checkered career of Limonov, whose flamboyant bisexuality and
willingness to embrace virtually any controversial cause, has made
him hard to stomach for a community whose point of reference is the
saintly Andrey Sakharov. Alekseyeva phrased her approach to the NBP
as "if it's a peaceful action, with normal slogans, I will defend
(the accused) strongly, although I will be criticized by my
colleagues."

16. (SBU) When the case of the seven NBP members recently sentenced
was raised, Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said only that he had "no
reaction" and that he could intervene only if an appeal was
addressed directly to him. His annual, 2007, report on the state of
human rights in Russia makes no mention of the treatment of the NBP
members by the courts, although it does focus on several "Other

MOSCOW 00000916 003 OF 004


Russia" demonstrations in which NBP members participated. On the
other hand, Lukin criticized the harsh police treatment of the NBP
when, in early March riot police broke up an unsanctioned rally in
central Moscow, arresting dozens of NBP protesters. Lukin saw in
the police handling of the rally "a strange and not entirely
appropriate overreaction," he said at a news conference at the
Moskovskiy Komsomolets Press Center on March 4. Lukin thought the
numbers of police at the rally made it appear as though the city was
facing an enemy attack. But, "I looked around and saw no enemies,"
Lukin commented.

17. (SBU) Yabloko Chairman Grigoriy Yavlinskiy agreed that NBP
members were treated harshly by the courts and believed that civil
society should protest the long sentences they receive. Limonov,
however, was a "fascist" and "dangerous" for Russia. Yavlinskiy
spoke of Limonov in the same breath with the Nazis as someone who
could recruit youth under the guise of one cause, and turn them to
something more dangerous for society.

18. (SBU) Human Rights Watch Tanya Lokshina was similarly careful
in discussing the NBP. They present a "dilemma" for human rights
organizations, she said, grouping the NBP with gay rights as a cause
that in the abstract deserved attention but that would receive
little sympathy from Russian society or even from the human rights
community itself.

The Leader of National Bolsheviks
---------------------------------

19. (SBU) Limonov was born Eduard Veniaminovich Savenko on February
22, 1943, in Dzerzhinsk, near present day Nizhny Novgorod. He grew
up in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov where he avoided the local
institutes, choosing instead to work in a bookstore at the local
Hammer and Sickle motor plant. (Later, Limonov chose the Hammer and
Sickle emblem for the NBP flag.) In the early 1960s he was an
active member of Kharkov's provincial bohemian world. One of his
closest friends at the time, the painter Vagrich Bakhchanyan
christened Savenko "Limonov" - the name means "lemon" - because of
his pale and yellowish complexion.

20. (SBU) Limonov claims to have written more than 44 books -
novels, poetry, prose and essays. His autobiography "Eto Ya
Edichka" (It's Me, Little Eddie) is full of martial rage. "The love
of weapons is in my blood. As far back as I can remember, when I
was a little boy, I used to swoon at the mere sight of my father's
pistol. I saw something holy in the dark metal," Limonov wrote in
"Edichka."

21. (SBU) According to Aleksandr Dugin, a friend of Limonov, the
name of the party made no difference to Limonov. "He wanted to call
it 'National Socialism,' 'National Fascism,' 'National Communism' -
whatever. Ideology was never his thing. The scream in the
wilderness - that was his goal." Limonov, Dugin went on, is like "a
clown in a little traveling circus. The better he performs, the
more attention he wins, the happier he is."

Limonov No Stranger To Controversy,
Or Russian Jails
-----------------------------------

22. (SBU) In April 2001, Limonov was arrested and charged with
terrorism, plotting the forced overthrow of constitutional order,
and the illegal purchase of weapons. After a year in jail, his
trial was heard in a court in Saratov. Russian Duma members
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Aleksey Mitrofanov, and Vasiliy Shandybin
petitioned the court for his release.

23. (SBU) Limonov maintained that the charges were ridiculous and
politically motivated, but was convicted and sentenced to four years
imprisonment for purchasing arms, such as AK-47s and explosives,
while the other charges were dropped. He served almost two years
before being paroled for good behavior, he told us. He was released
in the summer of 2003. Limonov recalled to us that he had to
"attend 'educational' lectures of how to be a good citizen, and not
fall asleep" in order to qualify for parole.

24. (SBU) As of today, NBP still remains banned as "extremist." "We
are the first non-Muslim party to be banned," Limonov said. "It is
quite an honor." The ruling has been challenged and reaffirmed
several times, most recently in February. Limonov claimed the
number of jailed NBP activists has not broken the will of followers,
who number some 1,000 - 1,500 hardcore activists and some 56,000
loyalists. (Note; Limonov's numbers are almost certainly
exaggerated.)

Future Plans
------------
25. (SBU) NBP activists are planning to join rallies in Moscow and
St. Petersburg in early May, prior to the May 7 inauguration of
Dmitriy Medvedev. Limonov and Kasparov told reporters March 18 that
the next Dissenters March in Moscow will be held on May 4 at 12:00

MOSCOW 00000916 004 OF 004


along the Noviy Arbat, the same location as the St. Patrick's Day
parade. A route for the St. Petersburg protest has yet to be
determined.

Comment
-------

26. (SBU) Limonov is 65 years old, but his appetite for
confrontation with the powers-that-be seems undiminished, as does
his ability to galvanize a constant stream of Russia's provincial
youth to embrace his ever-mutating cause. Limonov's continued
ability to find recruits in Russia's regions where, as he has said,
the "contradictions of Russian life are more visible than in Moscow
or St. Petersburg" should mean that his NBP will remain a visible
irritant for a government intent on domesticating its opposition for
the foreseeable future.


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