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Meet Russia's New Activists, the Anti-Maidan Movement

“Anti-maidanovtsy, anti-maidanovtsy everywhere.” Images edited by Kevin Rothrock.

“Anti-maidanovtsy, anti-maidanovtsy everywhere.” Images edited by Kevin Rothrock.

The latest thing to sweep Moscow's culture of street demonstrations is a coalition of war veterans, patriotic politicians, nationalist bikers, and mixed martial artists. They call themselves the Anti-Maidan movement. 

The group's name signifies its opposition to the recent EuroMaidan revolution in Ukraine, and reflects its decidedly anti-Kyiv, pro-separatist position on the war in eastern Ukraine today.

Announcing the movement's launch, the Combat Brotherhood veterans group, a co-founder of the movement, tweeted:

We are creating “Anti-Maidan.” So now what, Ukrainians, do you see what all your screwing around has gotten you?

Pictured left in the tweet above is Alexander Zaldostanov, one of the movement's leaders. Zaldostanov, also known as “The Surgeon,” heads the Night Wolves motorcycle club. The Night Wolves are well-known for supporting Vladimir Putin and celebrating the Kremlin's decision to annex Crimea and Sevastopol.

Other names mentioned as key figures in the Anti-Maidan leadership include Great Fatherland party co-chairman Nikolai Starikov, world-class mixed martial artist and boxer Julia Berezikova, and Combat Brotherhood deputy head and Russian senator Dmitry Sablin.

In an interview with RBC following the launch of Anti-Maidan, Sablin expanded on the movement's purpose:

Уже сейчас в движение вступили около тысячи человек, рассказал РБК сенатор и зампредседателя «Боевого братства» Дмитрий Саблин. По его словам, в «Антимайдане» рассчитывают довести численность минимум до 10 тыс. человек, поскольку «заявки организаторам приходят в больших количествах». Руководить движением будет штаб во главе с сопредседателями, а также исполком.

Численность для организации важна, поскольку, по словам Саблина, антимайдановцы собираются выходить на все крупные несанкционированные акции и численно доминировать над участниками. «Если планируется несанкционированное массовое мероприятие, то выйдут все члены организации. Если акция локальна, то мы будем смотреть по ситуации: где-то выйдут казаки, где-то представители «Боевого братства». В любом случае нас всегда будет больше, чем участников», – предполагает Саблин.

Действовать на несанкционированных акциях в «Антимайдане» обещают мирно, но в случае необходимости будут силой наводить порядок. «Мы будем ориентировать правоохранительные органы на тех провокаторов, которые своими словами или действиями будут подталкивать людей к беспорядкам. В некоторых случаях, если мы увидим, что кто-то достает файер или пытается жечь покрышку – мы будем сами выхватывать людей из толпы и передавать их силам правопорядка», – рассказывает Саблин.

Делать эту работу будут бойцы и опытные спортсмены, минимум кандидаты в мастера спорта. «Лучше не идти на провокации против нас. Мы будем стоять плечом к плечу. Поскольку в нашей организации в основном офицеры – мы это умеем. Мы не отступим и не убежим», – заверил Саблин.

Already about 1,000 people have joined the movement, senator and Combat Brotherhood deputy head Dmitry Sablin told RBC. According to Sablin, Anti-Maidan expects to increase its size to at least 10,000 people, given that “applications to the organizers are arriving in large numbers.” A headquarters with co-chairs, along with an executive committee, will lead the movement.

Numbers are important for the organization, said Sablin, because anti-maidanovtsy [Anti-Maidan members] will go to all major unsanctioned protests and numerically dominate the participants. “If an unsanctioned mass event is planned, then all members of our organization will arrive. If the action is local, we will assess the situation: Cossacks will go to some places, Combat Brotherhood members will go to others. In any case, their will always be more of us than them,” said Sablin.

At unsanctioned events, Anti-Maidan promises to act peacefully, but says it will use force to restore order if necessary. “We will direct law enforcement to those provocateurs who through their words or actions are encouraging people to disorder. In some cases, if we see that someone is starting a fire or trying to burn tires then we will pull these people out of the crowd ourselves and transfer them to the police,” says Sablin.

Fighters and experienced sportsmen, who are at least candidates for master of sport, will do this work. “It's better not to initiate provocations against us. We will stand shoulder to shoulder. Since our organization is mostly soliders, we know how to do this. We will not retreat nor run away,”  Sablin stated.

The movement's official manifesto further clarifies its political agenda:

Anti-Maidan's official manifesto.

We are Russians, who hold the fate of our Motherland and the future of our children dear. We are uniting for the Anti-Maidan movement because we love Russia and want to preserve and protect our Great Country. We are standing together in order to prevent “color revolutions,” street disorder, chaos, and anarchy. We will not allow those forces in our cities who hate a strong and sovereign Russia and who receive approval and support from abroad. We believe only a sovereign Russia can guarantee a worthy life for our citizens. Therefore, all key decisions for our country should be made in Moscow, not in Washington or Brussels. We know the history of our country, the terrible cost our nation has paid to survive the breakdowns of order that have sometimes happened in Russia.

We see the tragedy in Ukraine, where a fratricidal war in the Donbas began with the “Maidan” and street demonstrations and disorder. We are convinced that the clear position of the majority of Ukrainian citizens would have been to prevent the bloodshed and collapse of the government, but this was not so and it's not how events were reported. We are united, having realized all of this, to defend the constitutional order and law, as well as the traditional values of our society and the future of our country. We are resolutely announcing that we will not allow an armed overthrow of the legally chosen government, regardless of what pretty slogans these forces use to conceal themselves. Russia is our country. We are all Russia. And we will not allow her to be destroyed or covered with blood. We, the Anti-Maidan movement, are ready to defend our Motherland, her peace and stable development. We do not need great upheaval! We need a Great Russia!

Immediately following the launch of Anti-Maidan, the movement sprung into action, just as Sablin imagined, to crash an unsanctioned gathering outside the Kremlin walls of supporters of Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny and his brother, Oleg. According to one LiveJournal photo-blogger, the mixed crowd made for a “strange” night.

In addition to protest-busting, Anti-Maidan has also organized an outdoor photo exhibition, titled “The Face of American Democracy.” The exhibition, held on Pushkin Square in central Moscow, displayed graphic pictures from American militarily conflicts and failed popular uprisings.

A scene from the Anti-Maidan photo exhibition in central Moscow. Moscow Times.

Some well-known Russian political commentators have not been impressed with the movement, so far. Stanislav Belkovsky told Echo of Moscow:

Однако опыт такого типа рода проектов показывает следующее. Патриоты в такие проекты приходят весьма хлипкие. Как физически, так и нравственно. И работают они за пусть и небольшие, но только деньги. Идейной мотивации у них нет. Поэтому в решающий момент, когда нужно выходить и спасать родину, они не будут этого делать, пока не распишутся в ведомости о получении дотации за спасение родины.

However, experience with these types of projects shows the following: patriots in such projects are extremely weak—both physically and morally. And they work for next to nothing, but only for money. They do not have ideological conviction. Therefore, at the crucial moment, when you need them to go out and save the Motherland, they will not act until the receipt for their payment to save the nation has been signed.

The next Anti-Maidan event is planned for Saturday, February 21. The movement has rented about 120 billboards around Moscow to promote the march at considerable cost, reported RBC.

The Moscow mayor's office has sanctioned the event for up to 10,000 participants, and the march will proceed along Petrovka Street, culminating with a rally on Revolution Square, just outside the Kremlin.

It's unclear what impact the Anti-Maidan movement might have on Russian street politics. So far, Anti-Maidan resembles a more militant version of the pro-Kremlin youth groups Nashi and Young Guard, created in 2005 after Ukraine's Orange Revolution to build a similar protest-busting capacity in Russia.

During the winter of 2011-2012, however, when the Putin regime found itself facing mass protests for the first time, organizations like Nashi and Young Guard exerted little or no influence on events. Whether or not Anti-Maidan can better control the streets of the capital, if and when the Putin regime again faces mass protests, remains to be seen.

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