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17 Nov, 2014 15:15

Supreme Court puts extremist tag on Ukrainian far right groups

Supreme Court puts extremist tag on Ukrainian far right groups

Russia’s top court has branded two major Ukrainian nationalist groups as extremist and banned their activities in the Russian Federation.

A Supreme Court judge on Monday endorsed the lawsuit filed by Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office and directed that Right Sector and UNA-UNSO be recognized as extremist Ukrainian ultra-nationalist groups.

This means that any activities of the groups in Russia will be outlawed when the court decision comes into force, and even public demonstration of their symbols will become illegal. Several similar organizations, such as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army UPA, Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense and Stepan Bandera Trident were also tagged as extremist and banned in Russia.

The hearings into the case were closed as much of the evidence was provided by special services and classified. However, the activities of the Ukrainian nationalist organizations are well known and it is easy to get an impression about them from their own manifestoes and everyday reports from Ukrainian and international mass media.

The Right Sector was a federation of radical Ukrainian nationalists formed in 2013 on the basis of football supporters’ clubs, known in Ukraine as “ultras.” While officially declaring their ultimate goal as the foundation of the Ukrainian national state through revolution, at the beginning of their existence the radicals were agitating for EU integration and severing any ties with Russia. Right Sector fighters formed the core of the so-called Maidan protests in Kiev that eventually led to the February coup and the de-facto breakup of the country.

It is also believed that the Right Sector group was behind the May massacre in Odessa, where dozens of people were killed at a rally against the policies of new Kiev authorities.

UNA-UNSO stands for the Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian National Self-Defense and its history dates back to the early 1990s when radical Ukrainians started forming armed groups to fight for independence. The country gained its independence peacefully, but UNA-UNSO members still went to various wars in territories of the former USSR and Yugoslavia.

In March 2014, the Russian Investigative Committee started criminal cases against several members of the radical Ukrainian groups over charges of fighting against Russian military in the Chechen wars of the 1990s. Right Sector’s Dmitry Yarosh also faced a separate criminal case over public calls for extremist activities.

In a separate development, a group of Russian majority party lawmakers asked investigators to prepare an official letter to the International Criminal Court describing crimes by members of Ukrainian nationalist groups - including the infamous Right Sector - and asking they be recognized as extremist. The International Community has yet to react to this initiative.