war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Neo-Nazis in Moscow’s Service

Halya Coynash

Neo-Nazi self-styled "people’s governor" Pavel Gubarev among friends  (

While criminalizing honest historical debate under the guise of fighting “restoration of Nazism”, the Kremlin is showing incredible willingness to use neo-Nazi groups for its dirty work in Ukraine

Whether Vladimir Putin’s call for a postponement of the May 11 pseudo-referendums in Donbas was genuine will shortly become clear.  The reported announcement that the leaders of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic are “against” postponement may indicate that it was a mere attempt to distance Moscow from the militants.  The attempt would be pitifully unconvincing, but that has not been a consideration up till now.  Nor has damage to Russia’s reputation of the Kremlin’s continuing use of neo-Nazis to do its dirty work.   

The latest scandal came on May 7 when SBU [the Security Service] made public an intercepted telephone call which appears to show a local militant – who calls himself Dmitry Boitsov - receiving instructions on holding the May 11 “referendum” from the head of the neo-Nazi Russian National Unity movement, Alexander Barkashov. 

The tape which the SBU has provided English subtitles for can be found here.  If genuine, then Boitsov was having cold feet about the “referendum”, saying that they needed Russian support, including troops and that he couldn’t hold the referendum.  On the tape Barkashov tells him that the referendum can’t be cancelled, and advises him to forget about details, just write that 99%, well maybe 89% voted for the Donetsk republic.

Dmitry Boitsov  (

Boitsov is instructed to not complicate things, but to ask a simple question that “everybody” will be for.

This in fact is what the “referendums” do.  The Luhansk region single question asks whether people support independence for the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic.

It is possible that the recording is a fake, however the links with Barkashov and his neo-Nazi movement are certainly not.  On the social network VKontakte, Barkashov’s description of SBU manages to be both anti-Semitic and anti-Ukrainian.  He goes on to ask why he would be having a phone call when he can speak with Boitsov in person since he’s already in Donetsk.  “SO WE’RE HERE WAITING FOR BANDERA-SUPPORTING ENTHUSIASTS AND WILL KILL AS MANY AS WE CAN.”

Whether or not Barkashov is physically present in Donetsk, his comrades are.  One of them, Pavel Gubarev was released from detention on Wednesday as part of the exchange with three SBU officers captured, brutally beaten and paraded on Russian television channels two weeks ago.

Gubarev has been treated as “political prisoner No. 1” by the Kremlin and as a hero by the Russian media.  Information both about the violent disturbances initiated by this self-proclaimed people’s governor which resulted in his detention and his close ties to  far-right groups including RNE can be found here.  

RNE recently repeated the same call for Russian military intervention as that made earlier by Gubarev.  Considering its adherents’ usual specific vocabulary, the RNE appeal seems remarkably free of expletives and could be quoted.  It is not worth doing so, however, as all the phrases about an illegal Kyiv junta and the villainous Right Sector could be pulled from any Russian Foreign Ministry statement. 

With one notable omission.  There is no mention of “fascists” or “anti-Semites” which is hardly surprising given the neo-Nazi views RNE supporters espouse.

Gubarev with neo-Nazi friends

Viacheslav Likhachev who has for many years monitored xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Ukraine, explains that the Russian National Unity movement is the oldest neo-Nazi organization in Russia. As far back as 1990 it began using the swastika on its emblem and the Nazi raised arm greeting.

Likhachev points out that RNE fighters have been taking an active role in the pro-Russian “separatist” protests in Ukraine, mentioning Gubarev in particular.  Other radical nationalist and often anti-Semitic organizations have also been involved.  These include Black Hundred; the Eurasian Youth Union; and the National Bolshevik Party.  He adds that Barkashov and a number of others calling themselves RNE “inspectors” visited southern and eastern oblasts in March.

“As far as is possible to judge, at least a part of this activity by Russian neo-Nazis on Ukrainian territory is coordinated and led by the Russian security service”.  He notes that RNE has a long history of collaboration with the FSB.

Just this Monday Putin signed a law which criminalizes denial of Nazi crimes and “distortion of the role of the USSR in the Second World War”. 

Putin signed a law on May 5 making the denial of Nazi crimes and distortion of the Soviet Union’s role in the World War Two a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in jail.  Surveys have already found a large number of Russians unaware that the Soviet Union collaborated with Nazi Germany until June 22 1941.  One can assume that with the threat of a 5 year prison sentence, the range of taboo subjects will only increase. 

Those of us who indeed view Nazi ideology as monstrous can only feel profound frustration that this law appears aimed primarily at stifling free and honest historical discourse.  The Kremlin’s use of neo-Nazi allies to do its dirty work in Ukraine has been clear for a long time.  At a time when all of Europe remembers victory over Nazi Germany and those who died in that War, such collaboration is simply incomprehensible. 

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