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No Heroes: From skinheads to “anti-paedophile” thugs

Halya Coynash

Martsinkevich has channeled his muscles and neo-Nazi leanings to what he claims is fighting "paedophiles"

The dubious tactics of «anti-paedophile» – often anti-gay - vigilantes from an organization with neo-Nazi links have finally been noticed by the police.  Not just noticed, but actively criticized, which is a long-awaited first.  Less cheeringly, this attention coincides with calls by certain MPs and the Human Rights Ombudsperson for the EU to waive its demand that Ukraine prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. 

The Mykolaiv Head of Police, Oleh Shevchuk has told the website Prestupnosti.NET that the “lawless excesses” which the vigilantes get up to are in breach of a number of laws and cannot be justified. He advises aspiring vigilantes to contact the police on identifying a suspected “paedophile”. 

Shevchuk was talking about young members of a movement called “Okkupai-pedofilyai” whose methods for “identifying” and “re-educating” supposed paedophiles make one shudder.  The movement’s roots are no less disturbing.  Its founder is former Russian skinhead leader, Maxim Martsinkevich whose first gang received notoriety with some harrowing video clips including an “execution” in a Moscow region forest which may well have been based on the real killing of a migrant worker. After serving three years in a Russian prison for incitement to racially-motivated violence, Martsinkevich decided his neo-Nazi ideology could be best served, as in cosmetically touched up, by a shift to fighting “paedophiles”. 

Sexual exploitation of minors has been fuelled by poverty, social problems, etc in former Soviet republics and is indeed a problem. So too, however, is homophobia, which is now being openly promoted by Russia’s leaders and parliament, and it is no accident that many targets of the self-styled “anti-paedophile” groups are homosexual. Gay Star News recently reported that a gay teenager in Russia had died after being kidnapped and tormented by Martsinkevich’s vigilantes. 

Certain indications that the Russian law enforcement bodies are finally beginning to crack down on “Okkupai-pedofilyai” excesses make the emergence of such groups in Ukraine and the total failure by the police over the last couple of years to react so disturbing. 

The vigilantes use young people – boys or girls - as “bait” enticing men to make arrangements to meet for sex.  Since the youngsters are instructed to chat up men on the Internet, expressing willingness to have sex while spelling out that they are underage, the men organizing such meetings are undoubtedly planning to commit an offence.

   Instead of the expected boy or girl, the men (some very young themselves) discover a group of burley body-builders who use their fists to “re-educate” them,  force them to drink their own urine, etc, with all of this filmed, then posted on the Internet.

Even without the neo-Nazi ideology espoused by the movement’s organizers, the activities are clearly highly questionable.  The motives of those trying the “anti-paedophile” number are entirely cynical and aimed at popular support.  They present themselves as heroes fighting child-molesting villains, although the reality, albeit sordid, may be far less straightforward.  Firstly because the ages named indicate underage sex, rather than sexual molestation of children.  There is, secondly, a dangerous tendency for “anti-paedophile” groups to be a front for gay-bashing thugs. 

Public outcry over the measures used by vigilantes and demands for police involvement have borne fruit in Mykolaiv, however the vigilante groups have been active in other cities – Kerch, Odessa and Yalta – with the police effectively turning a blind eye.

Such activities by an organization which has so often targeted gay people, as well as efforts by some Ukrainian MPs to push for the same law against “promotion of homosexuality” as in Russia, make Human Rights Ombudsperson Valeria Lutkovska’s position worrying.  Amnesty International slammed her stated willingness to travel to Brussels with a delegation of MPs to persuade Europe to waive the requirement for legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Ukrainian LGBT organizations responded by calling on the EU to stand firm.  Lutkovska offered to present an anti-discrimination programme “without contentious provisions” which she claimed would not be supported by parliament or the public.

With the police largely watching on while neo-Nazi vigilantes act as prosecutor, judge and executor of sentences, and certain MPs rearing for battle against gay “propaganda, we can assume this waiver is intended to be indefinite. 


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