Nationalists bearing the yellow-and-black imperial Russian flag
As the opposition movement gains strength, the ultranationalist groups that have joined its ranks are drawing more attention from the public — as well as the Kremlin.
Many observers of the June 12 opposition rally noted a large presence of nationalist groups — from ones carrying the yellow-and-black imperial flag, the banner of the nationalist movement, to more marginal groups like Great Russia, which sported black Nazi-style uniforms with armbands and garrison caps.
A Great Russia spokesman said after the rally that the group would continue to wear their Nazi-style uniforms, much to the dismay of moderate nationalist leaders who have distanced themselves from the fringe element.
When Ivan Mironov, 31, deputy chairman of the nationalist All-Russian People's Union, took to the stage during the rally, his emotional speech about the ruling regime's imminent demise was met with resounding applause.
But speaking from the same stage a short while later, liberal-leaning former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was booed over similar comments.
Vladimir Sungorkin, editor of the Kremlin-allied Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, cited the sharp contrast to rouse liberals to rally behind President Vladimir Putin.
"If the regime would fall, it's not Kasyanov who'd win, but guys like Ivan Mironov," Sungorkin said in a recent interview with the liberal Dozhd television station.
A historian by background, Mironov spent three years in pretrial detention for the attempted murder of Anatoly Chubais, the architect of Russian privatization, in 2005. He was found not guilty.
Mironov's father, Boris Mironov, was a press minister under PresidentBoris Yeltsin. He was fired for anti-Semitic remarks.
"Not every enemy of Putin is your friend," liberal politician Leonid Gozman said by phone, referring to ultranationalists at the June 12 rally. "Fascists in power are much worse than Putin."
The Kremlin genuinely fears the rise of ultranationalist groups, which have the potential to sow mass disharmony throughout a nation already divided about the staying power of the ruling regime.
Though in the past the Kremlin has used ultranationalists to its advantage in election years, like when it hurriedly formed the Rodina party in 2003, it has been careful to prevent them from gaining too much power.