Before 2014, Crimea had only a theoretical idea of “extremism” and terrorism. Having occupied a part of the territory of Ukraine, Russia began to actively promote the concept of the “Russian world” on the occupied peninsula, but this “world” was not built in a peaceful way. By imposing its own ideology on the population of the occupied territories by force, the aggressor-State declared that all other worldviews and religious movements that went against its interests are “extremist”. That is why it is extremely important to study the content of this mechanism of the Russian aggression from within. PhD Andriy Chvalyuk will try to establish what invaders’ measures are used to “prevent the extremism and terrorism” in the Crimea.

It should first be noted that in democratic countries, where ideological diversity is guaranteed, censorship is forbidden, and neither ideology is binding, there is no such crime or offense as “extremism”. To the contrary, the state persecutes attempts to interfere in the life of any person. At the same time, Russian dictionaries interpret “extremism” as a kind of commitment to “extreme” views, methods of action (usually in politics) [1]. “Extremism”, Russians say, is prone to both individuals and organizations, mostly political and religious. The growth of “extremism” is usually facilitated by socio-economic crises, sharp decline in living standards of the majority of the population, totalitarian political regimes with the suppression of opposition power, the persecution of dissent [2].

The final sentence well describes the situation in which the inhabitants of Crimea found themselves after the occupation. Falling living standards, low social security, total “governmental” control, “judicial” bans on certain religious organizations, as well as representative bodies of the indigenous peoples of Crimea are the challenges that pose risks to the aggressor’s regime and therefore need to be countered. On November 28, 2014, the President of Russia approved the ‘Strategy for Countering Extremism in the Russian Federation’ until 2025 [3], and on October 7, 2015, the “Interdepartmental Commission for Countering Extremism in the Republic of Crimea” was established by the “Decree” of the “Head of the Republic of Crimea” and it gave impetus to “the search for causes and conditions that may contribute to the emergence of extremist manifestations among the Crimean population”. However, while the “commission” was looking for ghost enemies, the “law enforcement agencies” of the Russia’s occupiers accused of “espionage” and “preparation of terrorist acts” the Ukrainian servicemen, who, despite the official ban, risked visiting the occupied Crimea.

Religious literature was subsequently confiscated from “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, and its custodians were prosecuted for “extremism”. It is noteworthy that, according to a number of “peaceful” “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, they are a relatively numerous religious groups in Crimea, in contrast to other religious groups declared “extremist”. Thus, the “plan to combat extremism” will not fail, because before 2014, there was one Jehovah’s Witness for every three hundred inhabitants in Crimea. After the occupation, some believers left the peninsula, but many remained and preserved their religious literature [5], so the occupiers have someone to “make indicators” now. Given that the terms of imprisonment received by “Jehovah’s Witnesses” in Crimea are much longer than the sentences imposed on the ‘Witnesses” in Russia itself, the situation requires attention of the relevant UN bodies, of the Council of Europe and the OSCE.

However, the occupiers quickly realized that only repressive methods could not build “Russian world” in the “returned” territories and so they started allocating certain financial resources for the “prevention of terrorism and extremism” in Crimea. For example, in 2016, the “Municipal Subprogramme” “Prevention of Terrorism and Extremism on the Territory of the Simferopol City District of the Republic of Crimea for 2017-2019” was approved [6]. This “Subprogramme” has become an integral part of another “program”, namely “Ensuring public safety in the municipality of Simferopol city district of the Republic of Crimea for 2016-2019” “Safe City – Safe Capital” [7].

The first edition of this “Program”, according to the text published in January 2017, contained the task “Prevention of terrorism and extremism, as well as minimization and elimination of the consequences of terrorism and extremism in Simferopol”. However, in the latest available version of the Program (early 2020), its tasks have been severely curtailed. Either all the “extremism” in the city of Simferopol was eradicated, or the drafters of the Program realized the futility of their preventive actions and switched to ideological struggle. Or, most likely, all the funds provided by the “Program” have already been “successfully mastered” and therefore “municipal officials” urgently want to “turn the page”. At the same time, the task of the “Program” is to “prevent the ideology of terrorism”.

The very phrase “ideology of terrorism”, that is characteristic for the Russian Orwellian “new language”, was enshrined in the Russia’s Federal Law of March 6, 2006 № 35-FZ “On Countering Terrorism” [8]. The need for “prevention of extremism and radical ideology” was emphasized by the President of the Russia on December 31, 2015 in the Russia’s National Security Strategy. It should be recalled that this Strategy stated that the “split in Ukrainian society” allegedly “affected Russia’s national interests”. Later, at the request of the Ministry of Education of the Russia [9], the phrase “prevention of the ideology of terrorism” became popular and it appeared in the “orders” of educational institutions, plans and programs of Russia’s state and local authorities, as well as of the Russian occupying “administration” in the occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

However, let us go back to the “Subprogram”. It is surprising that the co-executors of the “Subprogram” did not include the “Department of Municipal Economy” and the “Capital Construction Department” of the “Simferopol City Administration”, which so successfully helped to “strengthen interethnic harmony” and “socio-cultural development” during “sawing” of some other “municipal budget programs” [10]. However, the representatives of the invaders’ “administration” were still able to “get a pick on extremism”.

The first task of the “Subprogram” is the “Implementation of measures to prevent terrorism and extremism in the spheres of interethnic and interreligious relations”. Indeed, these are really the most vulnerable areas for radical ideologies, yet it was more logical not to focus on the consequences, but to fight the root causes that contribute to the “growth of extremism”, and which Prof. V. Pilipenko determined relating of the bulk of the population, totalitarian political regimes with the suppression of opposition power, persecution of dissent [2].

It is difficult to assess how the right direction could affect the situation, but the “Simferopol City Administration” decided to “overcome extremism and terrorism” with “bozology” and focused on “conducting informational, propaganda and counter-propaganda activities, with the participation of civil society institutions aimed against extremist and terrorist ideology, increasing the vigilance of the population”. For sure, if such a problem were not fictitious but real, the “target indicators of the subprogram” could be to reduce the number of relevant “extremism” manifestations and the persons involved.

However, the occupying “authorities”, realizing that in reality it is difficult to find not only “terrorism” but also “extremism” in Crimea, chose other indicators of the “Subprogram”. So, its success was to be determined by “increasing the number of preventive measures to prevent extremist and terrorist acts” as well as “public awareness in the field of prevention and counteraction against extremism and ideology of terrorism”, which consisted of “making monuments, posters, leaflets, brochures, banners and so on”. It was planned to finance the activities of the “Subprogram” from the “municipal budget of the city of Simferopol” and in total in 2017-2019 they were to master 293.4 thousand roubles “on posters”. This rather modest “mastered” amount may be explained by the fact that the “Subprogram” did not provide for other sources of funding, including “regional” or “federal budget” funds. This means that the Kremlin’s curators did not take the problem of “extremism” and “terrorism” seriously in Crimea.

This could be no different, if all the Crimean “terrorists” and “extremists” in time, before all sorts of holidays and before the end of reporting years and quarters, are caught by the occupiers’ “law enforcement agencies” at the stage of preparation. Weapons, explosives, Ukrainian passports are confiscated from them… and the “criminals” themselves fall into the hands of “law enforcement officers” only with “bad intentions” but not after their “horrible crimes”. This state of affairs was in the Crimean “capital”, and “on the periphery” of the occupied Crimea, the situation was even more typical. For example, expenditures for the implementation of the “municipal program” “Prevention of territorialism and extremism in the municipality of Kerch town district of the Republic of Crimea for 2016-2018} in 2017 was amounted to only 4,48 thousand roubles [11]. This is not a mistake, according to the “program” in Kerch they really financed the prevention of “territorialism” for a fantastic amount of less than 5 thousand roubles.

It is noteworthy that a year later, in 2018, there was a terrible event in Kerch with the shooting of students and staff of the “educational institution” controlled by the occupiers of his graduate, with 21 dead, 67 injured [12]. Thus, the largest number of victims of school shooting occurred in Kerch, and this tragedy stands next to Beslan in the former USSR.

At the same time Vladislav Roslyakov, whom the aggressor’s punitive authorities called as a “lone terrorist”, that “legally bought” a pump-action rifle for 20 thousand rubles, and allegedly made by himself, as “the future electrician”, the explosive devices [13]. It is noteworthy that after the “terrorist attack” Roslyakov allegedly “shot himself in the head”. Therefore, despite all the “versions of the investigation”, the real motive for this “terrorist attack”, if it was really committed by Roslyakov, is unknown, because he did not leave any “manifesto” behind. This situation shows that “lectures, conferences, memorabilia and postcards” did not help for some reason. At the same time, until 2014, there was neither terrorism, nor funding of combating terrorism in Crimea.

However, did the Kerch attack lead to increase of funding? It did, and very significantly. In particular, in 2019 the “administration” has allocated from the local budget not 5 thousand, but 21349.5 thousand roubles for the “prevention of terrorism and extremism” in Kerch. These funds were spent on “intelligent video surveillance”, “perimeter fences and metal detectors”. And of course it was spent for “booklets, posters, billboards”, as there is “no good fight” without them [14]. Thus, the occupying “powers” again struggles at best with the consequences, not the causes, and in facto it itself became the cause of these terrible events.

On May 29, 2020, the President of Russia issued a Decree № 344 “On Approval of the Strategy for Countering Extremism in the Russian Federation until 2025” [15]. Crimean collaborators adopted their own “acts” on its basis, but textually they do not differ from the plans of the previous years, on “countering terrorism and extremism”, again by lecturing and conducting talks [16]. The report on the implementation of the “municipal subprogram” “Prevention of terrorism and extremism on the territory of the municipality Simferopol city district of the Republic of Crimea for 2017-2019” was not published. Therefore, it remains to analyse the “Report of the Public Chamber of the Republic of Crimea” “On the Situation with Civil Society in the Republic of Crimea in 2019” [17].

The “Report” states that within the framework of “increasing the level of tolerance in society” and “counteracting xenophobia”, the “State Committee on Interethnic Relations of the Republic of Crimea” together with “national and cultural public associations” held 10 conferences, round tables and seminars. In particular, in 2019, funds in the amount of 5.25 million have been allegedly allocated for the “cultural and mass events aimed at the development of national cultures and traditions”. This included 5.25 million “subsidy provided from the federal budget” and 275.5 from the “budget of the Republic of Crimea”. In addition, in 2019, this “State Committee” provided “grant support” in the form of subsidies to six “national-cultural public associations” totalling 1.8 million roubles [17, p. 116].

In total, the “Public Chamber of the Republic of Crimea”, formed by the invaders, concluded 37 so-called “cooperation and cooperation agreements” with “government agencies”, “non-profit federal and regional public organizations” and public chambers of “Russian regions” since 2014. In 2019, seven agreements were concluded. In particular, on April 15, 2019, an agreement was “concluded” with such a pathetic “international public organization” as the “International Association of Veterans of the Anti-Terrorist Unit “Alpha”. Interestingly, this is the same organization that was formed in 1997 by veterans of the special unit “Alpha” of the Security Service of Ukraine. On the same day, the “public chamber” concluded a cooperation agreement with the “Crimean Republican Public Organization” “Association of Veterans of Anti-Terrorist Units “Alpha”” [17, p. 41-43]. It is unknown what assistance can such structures provide for “combating extremism”. Most likely it will be the consultative aid, when “veterans of special services” will advise collaborators how to master the funds of “municipal programs” most effectively.

The “Report” pointed, as a single example of activities related to “countering terrorism and extremism”, to the installation of information stands and turnstiles in 2019 in the “Department of Education of the Yalta City Administration”. But this was in the practical plane. For sure, the “Report” has more information about the activities of the aggressor’s punitive services. In particular, it states that “in 2019, three branches of the …“international terrorist organization” “Hizbut-Tahrir”, two branches of the … “extremist organization” “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and the “Ukrainian sabotage and intelligence group” were suspended in the Crimea”.

The “Report” also adds that during this time, “62 criminal cases were initiated, including concerning 6 supporters of the Ukrainian nationalist movement “Right Sector”, 4 fighters of illegal formations – battalions “Asker” and the batallion “Named after N. Celebi Jihan” and 3 citizens of Ukraine suspected of espionage; a number of criminal cases have been brought to court, 20 persons have been prosecuted” [17, p. 119]. Thus, the “Report” refers to “extremists” and “terrorists” as the “Ukrainian spies” and points at ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars. Therefore, the “Report” summarized that “the risks of destabilizing the situation in Crimea remain”, and they are related to the “aggressive aspirations of Ukrainian nationalists” and “Mejlis leaders”. However, the “Report” does not specify whether the “Kerch shooter”, who “was formed as an adult in the new Russian conditions” [18], was a supporter of the “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, “Right Sector” or the Mejlis.

It is noteworthy that Russian scientists explain the “bursts of extremism” in the behaviour of young people by the influence of self-isolation against the background of the coronavirus pandemic and derive the category “suicidal personality of a teenager in cyberspace” [19, p. 23]. Thus, as soon as they try to “pin” everything on this pandemic, they have already reached “extremism”. In general, the whole content of the “Report” can be described in three words “influence, problems, prospects”. Of course, no real measures aimed at eliminating the causes and conditions that “promote extremism and terrorism” were carried out or even planned by the occupiers in the Crimea in 2020. We did not take into account the activities of fake structures, such as the “Ukrainian Community of Crimea” founded by Anastasia Hrydchyna, mentioned in the “ARC” previous materials, which have sources of funding other than “local programs to counter extremism”. However, let us turn back to the text of the “Report”.

In the “Report”, experts of the “Crimean branch” of the Federal Research Sociological Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences claim that “self-isolation and distance learning have brought teenagers and young people even closer to computer, and Internet” and “led to disruption of social ties” [19, p. 23]. With this in mind, it should be assumed that Crimean “municipal programs” and “grant measures” will be aimed at distancing Crimean teenagers from computers and restoring social ties (such as summer recreation camps, open-air sports competitions, tourism).

However, the occupying “powers” and their Kremlin leaders took the opposite path. Funding was allocated to a project aimed at bringing teenagers even closer to the computer – the e-sports training camp “Breakout”. This project was presented at the “All-Russian Forum for the Prevention of Extremist Manifestations and Ideology of Terrorism among Youth” “Formula of Consent” in the category “Sports, Healthy Lifestyle, Tourism” [20]. The website of “Rosmolodezh”, which acted as a grant provider, states that “each project was evaluated by three experts”. Either these experts do not understand what sport is or there is no more “healthy” way to master the grant allocated by the President of the Russia in the Crimea.

Yet the fact remains – a grant in the amount of 800 thousand roubles for the creation of “e-sports training camp” was allocated to students of the “Crimean Federal University” Tarasenko Karina, founder of the company “Dwarfs’ Corporation”. Despite its famous name, the corporation consists of only one “dwarf”, the director herself. Indeed, it does not take many workers to put a Crimean teenager behind a computer. It is necessary to register an enterprise with the authorized capital of 10 thousand roubles and a legal address in a dormitory room, draw up a “business plan” aimed at “prevention of extremist manifestations” and “submit it to experts”.

We do not know how many Crimean teenagers went through such “e-sports training camp”. There are no public reports on this issue, as well as media publications, but we hope that the “accumulated gold” of “Rosmolodezh” was spent by the “dwarfs” on a good cause. To verify this, we will use the Russian service of checking contractors. Three months after receiving the grant, the young public figure Tarasenko Karina became a “private entrepreneur” with the main activities’ code 56.10 “Restaurants and food delivery services”, and her additional commercial activities relate to trade and transportation [22]. It can be seen that the funds for the “prevention of extremism and terrorism” have become a good start-up capital. Thus, if 800 thousand rubles for these tasks were written off for one “student”, how much money was spent through “municipal programs” is a totally rhetoric question.

Finally, we note that the definition of actions to be considered by the aggressor State as “extremist” is contained in Article 1 of the Russian law № 114-FZ “On Combating Extremist Activities” [8]. It can be recalled that the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance notes the vagueness of the wording of the concept of “extremism” in Russian law. The commission has repeatedly recommended that Russia revise the definition of “extremism” in the federal law to ensure that it applies only to serious cases of hatred and violence… clearly state the criteria that must be met in order to make it impossible to declare any material as the “extremist” [23]. However, the aggressor’s punitive authorities still continue to punish “extremists” for statements and reposts [24].

Yet the abovementioned proves the complete falsity of the “fight against extremism and terrorism” in Crimea. After all, the real risks for the Crimean residents are clearly not related to the members of the “Right Sector”, “Jehovah’s Witnesses” or local Mejlises and to non-numerous “Ukrainian spies”, which the case of the “Kerch shooter” has comprehensively proved. In fact, the occupiers understand this very well, because they did not spend significant funds on “countering extremism and terrorism” in Crimea, except, of course, for the maintenance of their punitive structures. In those cases when some “budget funds” or grants were allocated for these activities, their immediate “development” was primarily virtual in nature and did not affect anything but the well-being of those involved.

Sources:

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16. https://kerch.rk.gov.ru/ru/document/show/4509

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21. https://www.rusprofile.ru/id/11842605

22. https://www.rusprofile.ru/ip/321911200002072

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24. https://team29.org/story/dislike/