Russian Professor Accused Of Heading Neo-Nazi Group

Radio Free Europe/August 16, 2010

Oryol, Russia - Russian prosecutors say a teacher at a Federal Protection Service (FSO) academy heads a neo-Nazi group accused of several violent attacks in the southwestern city of Oryol this summer, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Viktor Lukonin, a professor in the academy's physical education department, is suspected of leading a neo-Nazi group that calls itself "the head of groups linked to the Central Black-Earth Region of occupied Russia."

Lukonin, 31, was fired from the FSO academy on July 29 and was arrested by police on August 8.

Law enforcement officials said today that from July 16 to August 5 the neo-Nazi group attacked several businesses and police stations in Oryol.

An Oryol court is charging the group with at least four crimes, including setting fire to a police station, an explosion at a local prosecutor-general's office, and an explosion at the cafe Idira, which was owned by people from the North Caucasus.

Yulia Dorofeyeva, an aide in Oryol's investigation office, told RFE/RL that a probe into the explosion is still ongoing. Four people were injured in the incident.

"Currently we have seven people in jail aged 18-32," she said. "We have also determined their connections to several other crimes."

The neo-Nazi group claims on a website to have taken in part in "the destruction of seven police stations, two prosecutor-general's offices, the destruction of the store Eros, and attacking meetings and stores owned by people from the North Caucasus," among other incidents.

Kirill Levit, deputy head of the investigation into the case, told RFE/RL that in the basement underneath Lukonin's garage police found "the makings of a bomb manufacturing workshop" and confiscated two sawed-off shotguns, two pistols, and the components for homemade bombs and four Molotov cocktails.

Levit said the group was "seemingly planning more, increasingly violent attacks" and there are suspicions the group was part of a larger pan-Russian, neo-Nazi organization.

The FSO academy has refused comment on Lukonin.

Dmitry Kraukhin, a human rights activist in Oryol, told RFE/RL the rise of such extremist groups is a result of local authorities' inability to deal with economic and sociological problems in Oryol in recent years.

"In my opinion it is sparked by too much societal stress, which was actually created by the government," he said.

Oryol Oblast has one of the lowest standards of living in Russia.

The Oryol neo-Nazi group also claims on its website to be part of the Primorsky Partisans, a group that attacked police stations in Russia's Far East and is accused of responsibility for the killing of two police officers.

The Oryol group says on its website that "Oryol used to be a quiet provincial town warmed by the sun, but now it is on the brink of complete moral disintegration."

They blame the change in the city on "people coming from the Caucasus and Central Asia as well as the police and prosecutor general."

They pledge to carry out more attacks in the future.

The eight alleged members of the neo-Nazi group in police custody face 20 years to life in prison if convicted.

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