Thursday, October 1, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Russian Nazi Says His Group Killed Ethnographer for Testifying against Extremists

Paul Goble

Vienna, October 1 – A Russian Nazi who has turned state’s evidence says that members of his group murdered Nikolay Girenko in June 2004 because the prominent St. Petersburg ethnographer had helped expose and send to prison right-wing extremists who were terrorizing non-Russian communities in the northern capital.
In an article in today’s “Vremya novostei,” journalist Natalya Shkurenok describes in chilling detail the ongoing trial in St. Petersburg during which “members of a Nazi group have explained how and why they killed the ethnographer Girenko” and in which prosecutors have described some of their other crimes (
At the trial of the Borovikov-Voevodin Nazi group in St. Petersburg, Shkurenok reports, prosecutors have begun to lay out details about the Nazis decision to identify him as “an ideological enemy” and then to kill him on June 19, 2004, because “thanks to [Girenko’s] testimony, many Nazis had landed in prison.”
Fourteen individuals have been brought to trial --, including Aleksey Voevodin, their leader who was earlier a member of the Shults—88 and Mad Dog neo-Nazi groups that Girenko helped expose. (Several others remain at large or are in psychiatric detention. AndDmitry Borovikov, the other leader of this group, was shot and killed while resisting arrest.)
The group’s members, Shkurenok continues, carried out “approximately 20 crimes” including “the beating and murder of ‘non-Russians,’ theft, the distribution of narcotics, and the stirring up of inter-ethnic hatred.” But what has attracted widespread attention is their murder of Girenko.
Girenko, who was 64 at the time of his death, had been a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography. An internationally recognized scholar, he served as an expert witness in “almost all the criminal cases brought against Nazis” in St. Petersburg in the 1990s and first years of this century.
Not only did his murder attract national and international attention at the time, but ethnographers and human rights activists have marked the anniversary of his death with meetings and demonstrations each year since that time in the hopes that the Russian authorities would bring those responsible to justice.
The current case against the Voevodin-Borovikov Nazi group “began in February but it has proceeded only with difficulty.” Over the last six months, the court has held only three sessions. On Monday, the court heart from the elder daughter of Girenko who told how she had opened the door to the individual who then shot and killed her father.
Andrey Kostrachenkov, one of the members of the Nazi group who is now cooperating with the authorities, provided the following details. He said that “approximately a week before the murder [of Girenko,] Borovikov assembled Voevodin, [himself] and [a third member of the group] and said that it was necessary to kill Nikolai Girenko.”
“In fact,” Kostrachenkov said, the group’s leader “gave an order” which no one of the members considered it in their power to challenge because Borovikov told them that “Girenko had given the evidence that led to the convictions of his comrades in arms from the Shults-88 and Mad Crowd groups.”
According to Kostrachenkov, this was the first time that he had heard “the name of Girenko” and that he “knew nothing about [the ethnographer’s] work.” He added that four of the group’s members cased out the scholar’s apartment, planning to kill him on June 17th. But they changed their plans when on that occasion Girenko’s younger daughter opened the door.
Prosecutors say that this Nazi group also killed Rostislav Gofman and Aleksey Golovchenko, among other. They plan to do that in the coming days, but today’s newspaper report that a Russian Nazi has acknowledged that he and his comrades killed Girenko is important on its own in two regards.
On the one hand, it suggests that at least some Russian prosecutors are prepared to pursue extremist nationalists, at least in high profile cases, a welcome development given their frequent failure to do so earlier. But on the other, this case sends a chilling message to the members of Russia’s hard-pressed human rights community that Russian Nazis are ready to come after them.

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