Antifa United – Seven Antifascists Detained in Russia

Bohdan Yakimenko
Bohdan Yakimenko

On June 5, Russian police and the FSB conducted a large-scale operation and detained seven antifascists in Moscow and the Moscow region in the Antifa United case. The alleged leader of the group, Bogdan Yakimenko, was detained in Rostov-on-Don. The Moscow Department of the Investigative Committee (IC) of Russia provided video and photos of the operation. 

According to the Investigative Committee press release, in the summer of 2020, the suspects created a community using social networks, where they involved teenagers and planned hate crimes against law enforcement officers. The suspects take precautions, adding only acquaintances who shared their views to the chat rooms. In early June 2024, the detainees were searched, and signal pistols, knives, hard disks from personal computers, telephones, laptops, and antifa paraphernalia was seized.

During the arrest, the police electrocuted the detainees, reported Russian opposition media. It was also reported that Yakimenko was tortured with electric shocks, after which his relatives lost contact with him. He was discovered later in SIZO-7 in Moscow, where he subsequently was transferred to the famous Butyrka prison. 

Bohdan Yakimenko (better known as Max Vertsinsky) has previously been criminally prosecuted after a group of neo-Nazis attacked him in 2020. The antifascist spent a year under house arrest. After his first conviction was overturned, he spent eight months in pre-trial detention. Last year, Bogdan was sentenced to four years of forced labor. The sentence was appealed and has not yet entered into force. A few years ago, Bohdan Yakimenko became the hero of the documentary “Young Antifa: How Teenagers Become Antifascists and Why They Are Persecuted by the State.” 

On June 6, the Simonovsky District Court of Moscow sentenced 18-year-old antifascist Roman Chizhikov to house arrest until July 23 for participation in the extremist community of Antifa United. The court was asked to do so by the investigation because Chizhikov had previously pleaded guilty and written a confession of guilt, from which it follows that he participated in Antifa United. Chizhikov refused to communicate with journalists and only answered the judge’s questions with one-syllable responses. 

Antifa United is the name of a non-profit clothing brand that sought to popularize antifascist ideas among youth subcultures. The brand created groups under the same name on the social network VKontakte and the Telegram messenger app. 

According to the opposition media outlet Astra, in April of 2024, the Moscow Centre for Combating Extremism became interested in the closed VKontakte group “Antifa United,” which has about 4.5 thousand members. Law enforcers have been following the defendants’ activities for a long time. According to journalists, law enforcers have accessed the correspondence of antifascists on social networks since 2019. According to the investigation, the publications of the Antifa United group allegedly humiliated human dignity on the grounds of belonging to a social group and repeatedly displayed “Nazi paraphernalia. Later, the Antifa United community was recognized as extremist and banned in Russia. However, this was not stated in the official press release of the Investigative Committee.

The details of the case are unknown to the general public, and a public campaign in defense of the detained antifascists has not been launched. The case is being investigated under parts 1 and 2 of Article 282.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation: “Organizing and participating in an extremist community.” Organization of an extremist community in Russia is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and participation in such an organization — up to six years.