Radical group accused of attacking Russian oppositionists was reportedly under police supervision
The radical movement “SERB,” which has been implicated in multiple attacks on Russian oppositionists, was overseen by the Russian Interior Ministry’s Anti-Extremism Unit, a former SERB activist told the television network Dozhd. According to Oleg Chursin, the group’s supervisor was Major Alexey Okopny, an officer in the Interior Ministry’s “Center E.”
SERB leader Igor Beketov (better known as “Gosha Tarasevich”) allegedly “often mentioned Okopny,” and said the movement sometimes received “operational bonuses” from Center E, with which it coordinated its actions, “how to behave,” “what to do,” and “how violent” its members could be.
It is unclear if Alexey Okopny still oversees the Interior Ministry’s alleged collaboration with SERB.
Opposition activists from the “Solidarnost” movement told Dozhd that Chursin’s claims are plausible, saying they’ve seen Okopny at demonstrations where SERB members showed up.
SERB’s leaders deny that they work with the police. In an interview with Dozhd, Beketov merely confirmed that Moscow’s Interior Ministry headquarters sometimes calls them and warns them to stay away from certain events.
Major Alexey Okopny’s name appears in media reports about the 2007 death of National-Bolshevik activist Yuri Chervochkin, who died after a severe beating. When activists from Drugaya Rossiya (the National-Bolsheviks’ successor organization) said the police were involved in Chervochkin’s death, Okopny sued them for defamation and won. Okopny was also accused of participating in the destruction of an art exhibition in 2015.
The name “Oleg Chursin,” Dozhd’s source in this story, has also appeared a couple of times in the media. According to reports, he is a former police officer. According to Dozhd, he left SERB six months ago after becoming disillusioned with the movement.
SERB is known for its brazen attacks on members of Russia’s anti-Kremlin opposition. A SERB activist is suspected of spraying antiseptic in the eyes of politician Alexey Navalny, earlier this year. More recently, the group has ripped down memorial plaques in Moscow dedicated to slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.