Russian Fringe Forms Core of Armed Parliament Defenders
THEY give a straight-arm salute, they goose-step, and some wear black shirts with a swastika-like emblem on their sleeve.
But such neo-Nazi appearances are deceiving, insists Alexander Denisov, deputy leader of the Russian National Unity (RNU) volunteers. ``We don't want fascism in this country. We are Russian nationalists,'' Mr. Denisov says.
The RNU nationalists help form the core of the heavily armed defense force that broke through the police barricade yesterday that had surrounded renegade legislators in the White House, or Russian parliament building. They also can be found guarding the offices of ``acting president'' Alexander Rutskoi, and alternative ``security minister'' Viktor Barannikov.
President Boris Yeltsin - and supporters of his bid to dissolve parliament and hold December legislative elections - have portrayed the White House defenders as insane, drunken desperados who pose a threat to Moscow's safety.
There is no question that these volunteers come from the fringes of Russian politics and are an obstacle to a peaceful settlement of the 12-day standoff with parliament. They may even be beyond the control of the opposition leadership, headed by parliament Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov and Mr. Rutskoi.
Thus, even if parliament's political leadership makes a deal with Mr. Yeltsin on disarming the White House, there is no guarantee many of the approximately 400 defenders will go along with the demilitarization order.
``We take our orders from [RNU chief] Alexander Barkashov, and Barkashov takes orders from no one,'' says Sergei Porozhin, an RNU commander.
The primary motivation for the almost 200 RNU volunteers inside the White House perimeter is not support for Mr. Khasbulatov and the parliament, but an expression of their xenophobic, anti-Semitic vision of Russia's future.
``Russia should be ruled by Russians,'' Denisov rages. ``Yeltsin isn't a Russian. His wife is a Jew. The Russian national interest is an alien concept to him.''
Khasbulatov said at a weekend news conference that he does not approve of the RNU presence among the defenders. But given the circumstances, Khasbulatov is not objecting too loudly.
The RNU was founded in 1990 and has 350 chapters in cities across Russia, according to Denisov, who does not reveal actual membership levels.
IN addition to the RNU detachment, a collection of ultranationalist Cossacks, as well as assorted neo-Communists, make up the White House guard. Also, there are reportedly ethnic Russian volunteers from the Trans-Dniestr region of Moldova, near Romania.
Neo-Communists, such as 26-year-old Vasily Repin, say Yeltsin's reform ideas must be resisted at all costs. ``What's good for you in the United States isn't good for us here,'' Mr. Repin told an American journalist. ``I want my children to grow up in a place where they can be guaranteed a job.''
During the day, the RNU volunteers pass time by parading in formation on Freedom Square in front of the White House. Meanwhile, neo-Communists, including elderly women and children, huddle around nearby campfires.
Though ideological enemies, Denisov says the RNU and Communists at the White House get along. ``There are no disputes with them [the Communists],'' he says. RNU leaders prefer to talk about defeating Yeltsin, saying his presidency represents a threat to ``real Russians.''
``In about 10 years, due to assimilation and genocide, the Russian nation as we know it will disappear,'' Denisov says. He claims a ``Jewish-Communist'' conspiracy first started conducting the Russian genocide following the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, using terror and famine to kill millions.