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A congress of separatist rascals How the Kremlin is helping to facilitate a gathering of foreign anti-Americanists in Moscow
Russia and the United States have long practiced the rather meddlesome habit of cozying up to the people and groups in the other's country who are regarded by their home state as troublesome, traitorous, or even dangerous. In Russia, the most common criticism made of the democratic opposition is that its leaders are beholden to Washington. When America's ambassador to Russia was Michael McFaul, his occasional meetings with Russian activists (notably one rendezvous with Lev Ponomarev, which produced McFaul's infamous "Russia is a wild country" remark) were fodder for conspiracy theories for years to come. Just last month, the US International Republican Institute, chaired by Putin arch-nemesis John McCain, pinned a posthumous medal on Boris Nemtsov, who spent the last decade of his life railing against the Kremlin. This coming weekend, a Kremlin-connected organization in Moscow welcomes its own foreign guests at a curious conference dedicated to "sovereignty." Georgii Makarenko explains this story in a new article for the Russian news agency RBC. Read our recap of the text here.
In addition to Russia's support for right-wing groups in Europe, like its assistance to Marine Le Pen, Moscow is now planning to host a large conference on September 20, titled "A Dialogue of Nations: the Right to Self-Determination and the Construction of a Multipolar World." The gathering will welcome separatists from around the world, united in particular by their opposition to the US government and objections to American global hegemony. The event is being organized and paid for by an organization funded through a project established by Vladimir Putin almost two decades ago.
Who's sponsoring this event?
The organization behind this conference is called the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (ADR). Almost two years ago, ADR hosted something similar, that time inviting antiwar groups like the United National Antiwar Coalition in the US, which opposes "wars at home and abroad" and pushes back against "the military-industrial-financial complex (aka imperialism)."
According to the Russian Ministry of Justice, ADR was officially registered as a regional social organization on March 15, 2012. It was formed "to support countries and peoples opposed to the dictates of a unipolar world, who are trying to propose an alternative agenda." Before ADR was created, its future head, Alexander Ionov, co-chaired the so-called Committee for Solidarity with the Peoples of Syria and Libya, which was also led by former Duma deputy Sergey Baburin.
In the spring of 2013, ADR sent a delegation to Damascus, where it bestowed honorary membership on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Another honorary member of the group is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president of Iran.
Who's attending this event?
For the September 20 conference, ADR has refused to publish a guest list, citing "security reasons" and saying that Western countries might try to prevent participants from attending. As RBC points out, these fears are not unfounded: in February 2015, the FBI raided the office of a nationalist group in Texas, seizing its equipment and detaining several members. This group, the Texas Nationalist Movement, attended one of ADR's past conferences, and it's expected back at this year's event.
According to Anton Shekhovtsov, an expert at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, the "unifying feature" of everyone invited to ADR's conference this year, "from leftist Irish nationalists to Latin American anti-globalization activists," is anti-Americanism.
Who's paying for what?
According to invitations that went out to guests, ADR is offering to pay for delegates' airfare, airport shuttles, and hotel accommodations in Moscow. The organization says it has two major sources of funding: donations from supporters and government grants, which are enough to finance the group's annual conference.
RBC was unable to find any information in databases belonging to the Justice Ministry and Economic Development Ministry about government grants being awarded to ADR. The organization does, however, participate regularly in competitions held by the National Charity Fund, from which it won 1 million rubles ($15,000) in 2014 and 2 million rubles ($30,000) in 2015, to stage its annual conferences. This year, ADR was one of 99 winners, in a pool of more than 400 applicants.
The National Charity Fund was created in 1999 as an initiative by Vladimir Putin, who was at the time still serving as Boris Yeltsin's prime minister. It was initially called the National Military Fund, and it was meant to finance groups supporting soldiers and fostering the development of military-patriotic projects. Since 2009, the director of the fund has been Vladimir Nosov, who before this worked as the first deputy head of military counterintelligence at Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB). The National Charity Fund collects donations from ordinary citizens, prominent public figures, like Roman Abramovich, and major corporations, such as Sberbank and Lukoil. The fund operates under the patronage of the Russian president and his administration.
How does Russia take to separatists at home?
On September 15, just a few days before "The Dialogue of Nations" is scheduled to take place in Moscow, a Russian court found a man guilty of threatening the nation's territorial integrity. This marks the first time Russia has ever convicted an individual of separatism. Rafis Kashapov, the head of an unregistered organization called the "Tatarstan Social Center," was sentenced to three years in prison for political texts he posted to the Internet, where he called Russian officials in Crimea "occupiers" and compared Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. Kashapov was also convicted of inciting hatred against Russian state officials, the Russian people, and President Putin.
Human rights activists from the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis question the legality of Kashapov's verdict, saying there was neither an ethnic component to his political texts, nor any calls to violent actions.
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