Investigative Committee investigators detained persons suspected of publishing photos of Nazis on the “Immortal Regiment” website. Some have already admitted their guilt and repented of what they did. According to an independent investigation, among the detainees were supporters of the blogger Aleksey Navalny. According to experts, what is happening suggests a targeted campaign to diminish Victory Day and Russia’s role in World War II.
On Saturday, the Investigative Committee named four suspects in the criminal case of rehabilitation of Nazism during the online action Immortal Regiment. Among them were Daniil Simonov from Perm, Andrey Shabanov from Samara, Denis Vorontsov from Volgograd, as well as Vyacheslav Kruglov from Ulyanovsk. “Criminal proceedings have been instituted against these persons, investigative actions are being carried out, including searches at places of residence, they are being interrogated by investigators,” the report of the Investigative Committee reads.
After a conversation with investigators Shabanov, who published on the website of the Immortal Regiment a photo of Adolf Hitler, not only admitted his guilt, but also repented of what he had done. This is said in the video on the YouTube channel of the Investigative Committee. The young man promised not to commit such crimes again. Shabanov’s mother told the newspaper “Podem” that recently she has not seen her son. But a few days ago, he sent a text message from which she assumed that her son had come under someone’s influence. The woman noted that she does not want to defend him yet and is very particular about Victory Day.
The suspect Kruglov also repented of what he had done. “I thought about the consequences of the joke I made. I repent of what I’ve done. This will not happen again,” he promised.
As a result of the investigation, it was revealed that the suspects were in the same groups on social networks. Kruglov was previously prosecuted for crimes of an extremist and ordinary nature: in 2017 he was convicted of a crime of an extremist nature, and in 2018 – for theft.
In 2015-2016 Kruglov, according to “Kommersant”, posted on the social network “VKontakte” a video with a “negative assessment” of the peoples of the North Caucasus and Central Asia.
Simonov said in a conversation with investigators that he posted a photo of the traitor Andrey Vlasov, because “I decided to joke”. “I made a bad joke, unfortunately,” he admitted.
Other episodes of similar crimes have been identified as part of the preliminary investigation. Among those involved in the rehabilitation of Nazism were also citizens of Ukraine, Estonia, and other states.
Due to the coronavirus the all-Russian “Immortal Regiment” event for the first time took place on May 9th in a remote format. In total, about 3 million applications for participation were received. Now moderators continue to check about 500,000 applications. On Victory Day, the platform of the online march deflected several hacker attacks, during which the attackers posted in questionnaires photos of Nazis, Adolf Hitler and other criminals, established by the verdict of the Nuremberg Military Tribunal. Thanks to the vigilance of the organisers of the event, the attackers failed to stop the online broadcast.
This week, Artem Khutorsky, head of the executive committee of the “Immortal Regiment of Russia” movement, handed over to investigators a list of IP addresses from which hacker attacks were recorded. On Thursday, criminal proceedings were initiated under the article “rehabilitation of Nazism”, and on Friday, the first suspects were identified.
Lawyer and member of the Public Chamber of Russia Ilya Remeslo conducted an investigation on Saturday and with the help of his sources collected information about suspects. As the lawyer reported on his Facebook page, Simonov turned out to be an activist of the Perm HQ of blogger Aleksey Navalny. Shabanov is not only a supporter of Navalny, but also of the Libertarian Party, known for its calls to abandon taxes and pay pensions. Vorontsov, who posted on the website of the “Immortal Regiment” movement a photo of the SS gruppenführer Heinrich Müller, is a member of the group “Team of Navalny Volgograd” on the social network “Vkontakte”, and Kruglov – the group “Team of Navalny Ulyanovsk”.
“Personally, I do not understand what the point is of sending these photos to the Immortal Regiment, how did it help in the fight against the bloody regime and the offensive of the Beautiful Russia of the Future? Trying to snag the most popular movement in people on weak knowledge of history, to ridicule and discredit it? Alas – they do not have enough mind to somehow soundly oppose the authorities on historical topics,” writes the lawyer.
Political scientist Armen Gasparyan saw in the incident “more confirmation that non-systemic oppositionists actively take part in the rewriting of Russian history”. “Instead of remembering the great feat of ancestors, among young people they promote only fascism,” wrote Gasparyan on Twitter.
In a conversation with the “Vzglyad” newspaper Remeslo admitted that he was surprised by the results of his own investigation. “I initially thought that among these people there would be Ukrainians, supporters of Nazism. But it turned out that even Ukrainians didn’t think about doing this. The stubborn Navalnyists distinguished themselves, as always. It shows who is the real enemy of Russian society,” says Remeslo.
In turn, the President of the Democracy Research Fund Maksim Grigoriev described the detainees as people with a lack of ethical principles. “To fight the Russian state they are traditionally ready to use any methods. It is not important to them that they violate moral and ethical principles. Unfortunately, we see this in a large part of the pro-American liberal opposition. In particular, there are obvious flagrant violations, which cause no doubts to arise,” said Grigoriev to the “Vzglyad” newspaper.
Remeslo believes that there are signs of an organised group in the incident. “Among the suspects was a supporter of the Libertarian Party, who had previously been prosecuted for extremism, for theft. There’s a ‘good’ set among Navalny’s supporters. Unfortunately, these people don’t draw conclusions. They forget what they did and have fun again. But most of the detainees have already admitted their guilt, even repented, apologised,” said Remeslo.
Grigoriev also considers that what happened was a joint action.
“This was done by several people, it was all in the nature of a campaign, centralised actions. They appear to have been given appropriate instructions from the groups in which they participate,” Grigoriev believes.
Remeslo noted that among Navalny’s supporters “there are many strange people with Nazi and pro-Ukrainian views”. “These are not Russian nationalists. The Moscow headquarters of Navalny has a chief – a certain Oleg Stepanov, he was seen in photos in the company of people from the Ukrainian ‘Azov‘ regiment. Stepanov constantly agitated for Ukraine in a nationalist context. And there are many such people surrounding Navalny. The former coordinator of the St. Petersburg HQ was in the past an ultra. They can be listed indefinitely. These people are marginal, they can’t settle anywhere. Navalny has a huge personnel deficit, so he recruits everyone he can, there is no longer a choice,” said the lawyer.
According to Remeslo, among those who uploaded photos of Nazis to the “Immortal Regiment” website were those who were the victim of recruitment on social networks. “This is some kind of stupidity. It is enough to look at the pages of these people and understand that they are hardly ‘Nazis’, because they do not have images of swastikas, they do not belong in the corresponding groups. These are typical Navalnyists. It’s a provocation that someone suggested they do. But who – is not really clear.
I have doubts that they all thought synchronously about it. There was a single centre that advised or even ordered them to do so,” believes the member of the Public Chamber.
Remeslo believes that what happened confirms the talk of purposeful work among young people to reduce the importance of Russia’s victory in the Great Patriotic War and the falsification of history. “We saw that even Navalny and his associate Volkov criticised the US State Department, which published a message about the victory of the United States and Great Britain in World War II, forgetting completely about other countries. But work to distort history is under way, if even at the State Department level such statements are allowed, then what to say about the more grassroots, where the pro-Western non-systemic opposition is located. The case of uploading photos of Hitler to the Immortal Regiment website is one the confirmations,” said the lawyer.
According to Grigoriev, the detention of several young people “directly indicates that what happened is not accidental hooliganism, but purposeful activity, which is in the context of the campaign promoted by the Western authorities to try to steal the victory from the Soviet Union and Russia.” Remeslo is convinced that now “conclusions will be drawn and supporters of Navalny will be targeted more specifically”.
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