On February 10, a district military court in Penza handed down sentences of 6 to 18 years in prison or penal colonies to seven young men from the Russian cities of Penza and St. Petersburg. The draconian sentences were issued following a blatant state frame-up, in which police and officers of the FSB (the Russian equivalent of the FBI) with ties to the far right systematically tortured the accused.
The court found the seven men, aged 23 to 34, who were active in left-wing, anarchist and anti-fascist circles, guilty of having founded a terror organization, the “Network” (“Set”), as well as illegal weapon trafficking. The prosecution alleged that the “Network” had planned to unite Russian anarchists into “militant groups which aimed to violently overthrow the constitutional order” and to conquer power by force through attacks on state institutions.
The defendants were arrested in late 2017 and early 2018. Almost all initially signed confessions but later retracted them, claiming that they had been signed under torture and pressure by the FSB. They also reported that explosives and weapons were planted as evidence in their apartments. Their testimony about the torture and planted evidence was ignored by the court, and the confessions extracted through beatings and electro shocks were the main basis for their conviction. The court also relied on several anonymous witnesses.
The online platform Media Zona published parts of the testimony of Dmitry Pchelintsev, in May 2019, who was accused of having co-founded the “Network.” He described having been interrogated for days under torture, including electro shocks and severe beatings, without being able to speak to a lawyer. The officers also threatened to murder his wife. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation has repeatedly refused to investigate the officers involved in the torture.
Pchelintsev recalled a conversation with one of the FSB investigators, Valery Tokarev, who said, “Look Dmitry, you started messing with the state, you opposed the state. We don’t like that and you will simply be ground into powder.” When Pchelintsev asked, “But what information is there, anyway, that I’m some kind of threat to society?” Tokarev responded that the reason was that they were convinced that he would join a revolution if it broke out.
According to a report by the liberal Novaya Gazeta, another defendant, Ilya Shakursky, had been approached by a local neo-Nazi with ties to the prosecution on the popular social media network Vkontakte a year before his arrest. Shakursky recalled that a certain “Vlad Dobrovolsky” had reached out to him on Vkontakte in the fall of 2016 and gave him “important information about a planned attack by neo-Nazis on an anti-fascist event. He said he gave me this information because he was personally offended by the Nazis in Penza. He also told me that some neo-Nazis have close ties to the department for the fight against extremism [of the Interior Ministry] which, in turn, do not hinder the organization of events by the neo-Nazis.”
Shakursky said, “He later told me that an extremist neo-Nazi organization is active in Siberia which aims to fight for the autonomy of Siberia. As a convinced anti-fascist, I considered it my duty to learn more about this organization in order to expose them through articles for the media. … I met Vlad only a few times despite his constant requests for meetings. …At our last meeting in the summer of 2017 he started to talk to me about his plans for radical action and that he wanted to make explosives. I considered him a crazy fanatic and stopped talking to him and ignored his calls.”
Dobrovolsky was later identified as Vlad Gres’ko, a student active in the local neo-Nazi scene. According to the Novaya Gazeta, Gres’ko and Tokarev, the same prosecutor who also tortured and threatened Pchelintsev, are members of the same sports club in Penza. Recordings of the conversations with “Vlad” made by Shakursky were confiscated by the FSB during their raid on his house and the prosecution and the court rejected making them available to the defense at trial.
Shakursky also told the Novaya Gazeta that he recognized a man in the detention center (SIZO), who had tried to provoke a fistfight with him on the streets after one of the meetings with “Vlad.” At the detention center, the man spoke to an investigation officer from the FSB, telling him that he wanted to “shoot the curs [shavka, a term used by Nazis for anti-fascists].” The same investigation officer tortured Pchelintsev and Shakursky and threatened the latter with rape.
So blatant was the state frame-up of these youth that even the business newspaper Vedomosti felt compelled to contrast it to the lack of any kind of prosecution of the far-right National Liberation Movement (NOD), which has ties to Evgeny Manyurov, who attacked the FSB’s headquarters last December, gunning down several people.
The “Network” case illustrates the extensive ties of the Russian state and political establishment to the violent far-right. Russian police are known to collaborate with far-right vigilante groups in hunting down immigrants and leading political parties such as the Stalinist Communist Party and to maintain ties to formally banned far-right organizations like the Movement against Illegal Migration. The Kremlin also cultivates ties to the far-right on an international level, including the Front National in France.
The verdict has prompted an outpouring of protest. On February 12, an open letter was published on the website scientific.ru, denouncing the case as “fabricated” and an “act of terror” against Russian citizens. As of this writing, the letter, which calls for the immediate revocation of the sentence, has been signed by over 2,700 academics and science journalists. On Monday, February 17, 13 independent book stores in nine cities stopped operation for a day in protest against the verdict.
Right-wing liberal opposition politician Alexei Navalny also denounced the sentence.
Navalny himself, however, has close ties to fascist forces in Russia. The Pabloite Russian Socialist Movement (RSM) has maintained complete silence on the case.
The “Network” case is a blatant state frame-up which is meant to send a message that any anti-capitalist and revolutionary movement will be met with the full force of the state. The sentencing of these youth takes place as the Russian government has robbed 800,000 people of their pensions on the basis of a pension reform that has been opposed by 90 percent of the population. Social inequality is at a record high, and real incomes have declined for five years in a row, with one in eight Russians now officially living on less than $150 a month.
The only official opposition to the Putin government currently comes from the right: the liberal opposition, led by Navalny, which is closely aligned with US imperialism, and its pseudo-left hangers-on. While Navalny has recently tried to tap in into the massive social discontent—and is massively promoted by the Western bourgeois press and liberal media in Russia—public opinion polls show that just a little over 2 percent of the population have confidence in him.
What the oligarchy as a whole fear above all is that the international reemergence of the class struggle will sooner rather than later spread to Russia through mass social protests and strikes outside the control of all the established political parties.
It is revealing that the Western bourgeois press, which is always eager to denounce the “authoritarian regime” in Russia when it targets its right-wing opponents in the oligarchy and upper middle class, has barely commented on the state frame-up of these left-wing youth. The New York Times only published a brief report by the Associated Press. There were almost no reports in the German media.
Underlying this silence is the fact that the same class and political dynamics that are behind the frame-up of these left-wing youth in Russia are also on stark display in the imperialist countries. The German state, in particular, has built and covered up for an extensive network of right-wing extremist terrorists that have targeted immigrants, left-wing political organizations and politicians, while the government and the secret service (Verfassungsschutz) systematically seek to suppress and criminalize any opposition to the far-right from the left.
Analysis over 20 years reveals heavy Anglo-Saxon influence, with French and Danish DNA coming from earlier migrations than the Normans or Vikings.
The Romans, Vikings and Normans may have ruled or invaded the British for hundreds of years, but they left barely a trace on our DNA, the first detailed study of the genetics of British people has revealed.
The analysis shows that the Anglo-Saxons were the only conquering force, around 400-500 AD, to substantially alter the country’s genetic makeup, with most white British people now owing almost 30% of their DNA to the ancestors of modern-day Germans.
People living in southern and central England today typically share about 40% of their DNA with the French, 11% with the Danes and 9% with the Belgians, the study of more than 2,000 people found. The French contribution was not linked to the Norman invasion of 1066, however, but a previously unknown wave of migration to Britain some time after then end of the last Ice Age nearly 10,000 years ago.
Prof Peter Donnelly, director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, who co-led the research, said: “It has long been known that human populations differ genetically, but never before have we been able to observe such exquisite and fascinating detail.”
The study found that people’s ancestral contributions varied considerably across Britain, with people from areas of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland emerging as separate genetic clusters, providing a scientific basis to the idea of regional identity for the first time.
The population of the Orkney Isles was found to be the most genetically distinct, with 25% of DNA coming from Norwegian ancestors who invaded the islands in the 9th century.
The Welsh also showed striking differences to the rest of Britain, and scientists concluded that their DNA most closely resembles that of the earliest hunter-gatherers to have arrived when Britain became habitable again after the Ice Age.
Surprisingly, the study showed no genetic basis for a single “Celtic” group, with people living in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Cornwall being among the most different form each other genetically.
“The Celtic regions one might have expected to be genetically similar, but they’re among the most different in our study,” said Mark Robinson, an archaeologist from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and a co-author. “It’s stressing their genetic difference, it’s not saying there aren’t cultural similarities.”
The study, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, is the culmination of 20 years of work. Scientists began collecting DNA samples from people in Orkney in 1994 and gradually worked across most of the British Isles.
The participants were all white British, lived in rural areas and had four grandparents all born within 50 miles (80km) of each other. Since a quarter of our genome comes from each of our grandparents, the scientists were effectively obtaining a snapshot of British genetics at at the beginning of the 20th century.
Sir Walter Bodmer, of the University of Oxford, who conceived the study, said: “We’re reaching back in time to before most of the mixing of the population, which would fog history.”
The team also looked at data from 6,209 individuals from 10 European countries to reconstruct the contributions their ancestors made to the genetic makeup of the British.
The analysis shows that despite the momentous historical impact on British civilisation of the Roman, Viking and Norman invasions, none of these events did much to alter the basic biological makeup of people living here. The findings support records suggesting that few high ranking Roman officials settled in Britain and that they and their families remained largely segregated from the local Celts.
The Danish Vikings, who ruled over large swathes of Britain from 865AD, are known to have inter-married with locals, but the latest study shows that the conquering force, while powerful, must have comprised relatively few fighters.
“There were very large numbers of people – hundreds of thousands – in those parts of Britain, so to have a substantial impact on genetics there would have to be very large numbers of them,” said Robinson. “The fact that we don’t see that reflects the numbers rather than the relative allure or lack thereof of Scandinavian men to British women.”
The analysis also settles a long-running dispute about the nature of the Anglo-Saxon takeover of England following the collapse of the Roman empire. The replacement of the Celtic language by Anglo-Saxon and the complete shift towards North-West German farming and pottery styles has led some to suggest that local populations must have retreated to Wales or even been wiped out in a genocide.
“[Our results] suggest that at least 20% of the genetic makeup in this area is from Anglo-Saxon migrants, and that there was mixing,” said Robinson. “It is not genocide or complete disappearance of Britons.”
The authors suggest that DNA analysis should now be regarded as a powerful historical tool, sometimes providing more impartial information than traditional sources.
“Historical records, archeology, linguistics – all of those records tell us about the elites. It’s said that history is written by the winners,” said Donnelly. “Genetics complements that and is very different. It tells us what is happening to the masses… the ordinary folk.”