When German Vengerveld and Valentin Mumzhiev get out of Russian prison, Vladimir Putin may not be the country's president. The duo were among the white power gang members sentenced earlier this week in Saint Petersburg, reports Russia's Investigative Committee, a federal investigative body somewhat analogous to the FBI.
The Moscow-based SOVA Center for Information and Analysis has been following the case against the group "NS/WP Nevograd" (NS/WP stands for National Socialist / White Power) since eleven gang members were arrested in 2010. Four years later, German Vengerveld was sentenced to 24 years in prison, and Vladimir Mumzhiev received a 16-year sentence. His brother Valentin Mumzhiev and friend Artem Zavyalov were given 14 years each; Arseny Miroshnichenko received a 9-year sentence; Yevgeny Koryabkin and Dmitry Abalishin received 7 years each, and Kirill Prisyazhnyuk will be free in 3 years. Roman Veits got off easy, walking away with a suspended two-year sentence.
NS/WP members were found guilty of ten murders and five physical assaults, one church arson, blowing up a bus stop and placing fake explosives on a subway car.
The Russian press identified Vengerveld and Valentin Mumzhiev as "the most active" of the neo-Nazi bunch, specializing in attacks on ethnic minorities, the homeless and alcoholics in Saint Petersburg, Russia's renowned cultural capital. German Vengerveld's father was at the sentencing and told a Gazeta.Ru reporter that his son has expressed remorse about his deeds and aplogized to the victims' families. Vengerveld's mother is currently on trial for assisting her son's failed escape attempt; the pepper spray he used on his convoy during transfer was allegedly provided by her.
Valentin Mumzhiev said the attacks were "spontaneous," yet the Russian government begs to differ. The Investigative Committee's press release states the attacks were "meticulously planned" by a group whose composition changed little through the years and whose members were on the same page ideologically, perfecting their killing methods over the years. Seeking publicity, the gang videotaped its crimes and made the recordings publicly available on its web-site, ns-wp.ws, which is still operational since the domain is regestered in Samoa.
SOVA reports that in December 2009 "members of NS/WP posted a video showing the murder of an African man. The video was titled 'New Year - New Terror.'" The video proved key to the gang's eventual downfall, as the investigation into their activities began after the clip was uploaded online.
NS/WP's founder Georgy Timofeev wasn't among the convicted this week. Timofeev was sentenced in 2012, aged 21, after selling out his comrades and signing a deal with the prosecutors. Disavowing the Nazi ideas, cooperating with law enforcement and testifying against himself and his former underlings worked out well for then 21-year-old gang leader: Georgy Timofeev is now serving his 13-year sentence. Dmitry Negudov, another gang member who ended up making a deal with the prosecution, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison.
Timofeev's murderous outfit was created in 2009, following in the footsteps of the Borovikov and Voevodin gang, whose activities halted in 2006 after a period of ferocious violence in 2003-04 for which some of the members received life imprisonment in 2011.
The verdict against NS/WP comes less than a week after the tenth anniversary of the murder of ethnologist and rights activist Nikolai Girenko at the hands of the Voevodin-Borovikov gang. Professor Girenko was shot dead in his own apartment on June 19, 2004. A decade later, the Russian government is still struggling to curtail the appetite for destruction of NS/WP and the like.