Anarchists fear backlash after Russia bombing by teen attacker
- Anarchists in Russia form a relatively small movement, but with a history dating back to the 1850s
- They fear bomber’s actions would reinvigorate a crackdown launched by the security services earlier this year
Russian anarchists fear a backlash from the authorities after last week’s suicide bomb attack on the federal security service by a teenage anarchist in the northern city of Arkhangelsk.
A 17-year-old blew himself up in the offices of the FSB security agency on Wednesday injuring three members of the force and sparking a terrorism investigation.
Student Mikhail Zhlobitsky allegedly used a pseudonym to post a warning about the attack on an online anarchist forum on the Telegram messaging application seven minutes before it happened.
He also used the name Sergei Nechayev – after a 19th-century Russian revolutionary who advocated violence in the name of socialism – on the social media platform VKontakte.
The attack has shone a spotlight on the country’s anarchists at a time they already faced mounting pressure from the authorities. The FSB has in recent months launched several cases against the young activists.
Anarchists in Russia form a relatively small movement, but with a history dating back to the 1850s.
Attacks on the authorities have in the past included setting police cars on fire, and throwing Molotov cocktails at the ruling United Russia party’s offices.
The last time an attack killed anyone was in the early 20th century.
In the wake of the bombing, Russia’s media focused on the fact that the teenager had expressed violent views.
“Anarchism: the mother of terror?” read a headline on the front page of Russia’s main pro-Kremlin Moskovsky Komsomolets the day after the attack.
Anarchists, who said they did not know Zhlobitsky, feared his actions would reinvigorate a crackdown launched by the security services earlier this year.
“We did not know him,” said one anarchist from a group calling itself the “People’s Self-Defence”.
Declining to give his name because of increased scrutiny from the security services, he said he “respected” Zhlobitsky’s choice.
But he stressed the group did not support the method, and described the incident as the “tragic death of a 17-year-old guy”.
The group had created the open forum on Telegram where Zhlobitsky posted the warning.
Another anarchist, who also wished to remain anonymous, said: “I see no heroism in this.”
“It’s a tragic situation,” the Moscow-based activist added.
“One person died and I don’t see that the system was harmed either.
“There will just be more repressions, that is the only result that I see at the moment.”
He said fellow activists in several Russian regions have already warned of security services beginning interrogations.
Another in Perm, a city in the Urals, posted on Facebook that she had learned about the Arkhangelsk incident in a phone call from an FSB officer.
In the southern city of Krasnodar officers had called around 60 people belonging to political online communities to question them, rights activist Valentina Dekhtyarenko said.
In March, an anarchist in Russian-annexed Crimea said the security services had tortured him. He has since fled the peninsula.
Since 2017, the FSB has launched several cases against young activists in the cities of Saint Petersburg and Penza. Avtonom.org, an anarchist website, has denounced the arrests and claim the suspects were tortured in custody.
For leftist journalist Ilya Budraitskis these arrests represent a new threat to Russian rebels.
“They arrested young people in different cities who did not know each other, lumped them in one group and built a case around a phantom organisation,” Budraitskis said.
The security services crackdown was part of the Russian state’s “anti-revolution obsession”, he argued.
“The order to fight the perceived revolutionary threat comes from the very top,” Budraitskis said.
Budraitskis said he believed the Arkhangelsk bombing was a one-man act but that it would lead to further repression from the FSB.
“It is their logic,” he said.
“It will be used to go after more groups.”