MOSCOW, July 13 (JTA) — Russian President Boris Yeltsin has criticized his justice minister for allowing extremist and ultranationalist groups to receive official certification. In a meeting with Pavel Krasheninnikov last week, Yeltsin said the Russian Constitution prohibits the registration of such groups. The development came as the president’s commission on human rights announced that the threat of neo-Nazism in Russia is becoming increasingly alarming. Some experts predict that Russian authorities are seeking to raise awareness about the dangers of political extremism and neo-Nazism in an effort to rally pro-reform forces in advance of the presidential elections in 2000. The Kremlin complained recently about the rise of extremist and neo-Nazi groups in Moscow after several attacks by skinheads on Africans and Asians — and after the May bombing of a synagogue in the Russian capital. After meeting with Yeltsin on July 9, Krasheninnikov told reporters that the president had expressed concern about local authorities certifying such groups as the overtly anti-Semitic Russian National Unity, or RNE, a paramilitary organization. The RNE, which has usually maintained a low profile in national and local elections, is now making plans to run in the parliamentary elections slated for 1999. The legal status of the RNE has been uncertain since the Justice Ministry refused to register the movement at the federal level last year. But the movement’s local branches are officially registered in 25 Russian regions. And a local court in southern Russia ruled recently that a local journalist libeled RNE by calling it a “fascist organization.” Krasheninnikov has said that Russian legislators need to develop a legal definition for fascism, as neo-Nazism is called in Russia. Only this could help “stop the threat of fascism in Russia,” he said. Focusing on the problem, Yeltsin’s commission on human rights said in a July 9 statement: “Fascist ideology is offering simple recipes for dealing with difficult problems and is making up bogus enemies as an outlet for the negative energy accumulated in society. “Paramilitary extremist organizations are actively using the arsenal of fascist ideology and propaganda,” the commission said, adding that more incidents, including the recent bombing of the Marina Roscha synagogue in Moscow, have occurred “when they passed over from military training disguised as sports activity to direct acts of terrorism.”
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