The Moscow Center for Human Rights on Monday released a report on the growth of racial, ethnic and religious discrimination in the first half of 2005. But human rights activists at a news conference called to discuss the report expressed as much concern over the self-professed anti-fascism of the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth movement as they did over ultranationalist groups.
"I'm convinced that Nashi is a fascist organization acting under the banner of anti-fascism," said Vladimir Ilyushenko, a political analyst. He said that he considered the group's role in supporting Kremlin interests comparable to that of the Hitler Youth.
"Look at whom they condemn as fascists: Irina Khakamada, Vladimir Ryzhkov; Gary Kasparov -- the whole row of liberal politicians," he said.
In speeches and pamphlets, Nashi has attacked liberal politicians as agents of Western influence and has blamed them for a decline in Russia's international prestige. Nashi has also targeted oligarchs and bureaucrats.
Ilyushenko attributed the appearance of the movement to political inactivity by the cultural elite. "Our intelligentsia, our artists, our writers, are all in such a fearful state that they won't speak out against the threat of fascism themselves," he said. "Against that background, pseudo-intellectual fascist organizations like Nashi appear."
Alla Gerber, president of the Holocaust Foundation, said, "What is most frightening about Nashi is the implicit division of the population into who is 'us' and who is not. That can take a dangerous turn at any time."
Nashi's press secretary, Ivan Mostovich, denied that the movement had ever labeled particular politicians fascists. "When we say 'us,' we mean anyone who lives and works for the good of our country," he said.
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