A gang of black-shirted members of the anti-Semitic Pamyat movement burst into the offices of a pro-democracy Moscow newspaper this week, held the editor hostage and videotaped the staff before leaving 20 minutes later.
They were gone before police arrived at Moskovski Komsomoletz, which bears the name of the defunct Communist youth movement but is now regarded as a leading pro-democracy paper.
Pamyat leaders have frequently called the paper “Masonski Zhid-omoletz” (Masonic Kike omelette) and similar names; some Pamyat leaflets have framed the paper’s masthead in a Star of David.
Nonetheless, there is nothing particularly Jewish about the paper, whose editor, Pavel Gusev, is an ethnic Russian.
The incident began at about 11 a.m. on Tuesday as a weekly editorial meeting was in progress. About 25 to 30 members of Pamyatfs National Patriotic Front faction sprang from several vehicles that suddenly appeared outside the paper’s main entrance.
Some rushed straight to the third floor, where Gusevfs office is located, while others surrounded the paper’s unarmed security guards, said witnesses.
Locking Gusev in, the invaders read him a 10-point declaration that included demands he turn over the names of the paper’s journalists who have written “anti-patriotic” articles, and “apologize before the Russian people.”
The invaders did not harm the editor or anyone else.
Despite the ruffians’ efforts to prevent anyone from calling the police, someone did succeed in summoning help. But police arrived too late to arrest anyone, prompting charges that they did not take the incident seriously.
Initial reports said a single unarmed police captain arrived on the scene 40 minutes after being called.
On Russian television a day after the incident, Gusev downplayed charges of police tardiness. But the bad taste lingered after the chief of the local police station, Lt. Col. V. Chasovnikov, said publicly that police initially wondered whether the Pamyat attack had been “a friendly visit.”
No one has yet been arrested. From a license number taken down by a witness, police traced the driver of one car. He claimed he was not a Pamyat member and had been paid 1,000 rubles, about $3, to drive them.
Chasovnikov said suspects, if found, would be charged with hooliganism, which is punishable by anywhere from one to seven years in jail.
“It’s said that fascism is growing here,” a front-page editorial in Moskovski Komsomoletz said after the incident. “Well, it’s already grown, if a bunch of blackshirts can walk into the offices of a major Moscow paper in the middle of the day, dictate their conditions, threaten ‘decisive measures’ and then peacefully drive away.”
Numerous Russian public figures condemned the Pamyat action.