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Escape from Ukraine, or Return of the Tomato Terrorist

Russian cult classic White Sun of the Desert gets re-imagined with the Red Blitzkrieg. Images remixed by Andrey Tselikov.

Russian cult classic White Sun of the Desert gets re-imagined. Images remixed by Andrey Tselikov.

Two years ago, almost exactly to the day, I wrote [Global Voices Report] about the exploits of “tomato terrorist” Andrei Morozov, better known as Murz, a RuNet trouble-maker who first gained notoriety in 2005:

Red Blitzkrieg” was what Morozov named the tiny Stalinist-nationalist group he had founded around the time, but the phrase referred more visibly to his strategy of throwing tomatoes at political and ideological opponents.

Back then it took Morozov exactly two years to get into serious trouble — in 2007 he fired a shotgun at a local FSB office, and summarily went to prison. A curious example of the cyclical nature of the Russian blogosphere and the Russian protest movement, in 2012 Morozov again “tomatoed” the same people he did seven years prior. And now, in 2014 (again a two year interval), Murz is back in trouble and in the news, like some kind of broken solar calendar.

The first details appeared on May 18, when Morozov posted a short update in his LiveJournal blog kenigtiger: “Came back from Donbass. I was there from around May 11, and now back straight from the train. A f*ckton of impressions. I've got no fractures, no serious sprains. But I do have a hematoma covering my left shin, and on my hands just about three fingers of the left hand are usable.” Morozov gave more details when answering comments to his post, and later wrote a longer explanation of what happened. The story he tells is mind-boggling, but not any more mind-boggling than the type you would expect from this man.

A nationalist and an ideological radical, Morozov was inspired by Russian volunteers who crossed the border to assist separatist fighters in Eastern Ukraine. Moreover, he was likely inspired by the example of the separatist military reader Igor Strelkov, who, like Morozov, happens to be a historical reenactor. So, inspired, he decided to also cross the border into Ukraine, carrying his own gear, including a bullet-proof vest.

After coming in contact with the separatists, however, Morozov was arrested, accused of being a spy, and tortured — the source of his injuries. He was tied in a “stress position,” hanging by his wrists for days. Eventually, since they were convinced he was a spy, he was traded by the separatists to the Ukrainian forces, who after a while dumped him at the Russian border, where he was picked up by border guards and taken to a hospital.

Not everyone was convinced by Morozov's story — one blogger pointed out that it seems odd that the first thing someone does after having their hands badly hurt, is sit down and write a long post and then answer dozens of comments. Another guessed that Morozov might have been captured by someone that knew his abrasive blogging persona, and was thus happy to see him punished.

Morozov himself appears to bear no grudges. At the end of his story he wrote the following:

Я не держу зла на ополченцев, пытавших меня в Антраците. И, если бы, сняв меня с решетки, они дали бы мне оружие, я пошёл бы сражаться вместе с ними за свободу и независимость ДНР. [...] Я, как только подлечусь и поправлю финансовое положение, готов [...] вступить в ополчение и сражаться за русский народ Донбасса до последней капли крови. И считаю такое отношение к вопросу правильным для сталиниста и русского националиста.

I don't hold it against the militia who tortured me in Antracite. [...] And, if after they took me down from hanging they gave me a weapon, I would go with them to fight for the freedom and independence of DPR. [...] As soon as I get better and improve my financial status, I am ready [...] to join the militia and fight for the Russian people of Donbass till the last drop of blood. I think this stance is the correct one for a Stalinist and a Russian nationalist.

Stanislav Yakovlev, former Natzbol blogger, currently with DemVybor, had this to say about Morozov's bravado in a private conversation:

Ну он не ссыт, это конечно вызывает уважение. Больше сказать даже как-то и нечего. Кроме того, что в некоторых ситуациях одной смелости мало, а инициатива и вовсе наказуема.

Well, he ain't afraid, and that makes me respect him. Can't really say anything else. Besides for the fact that in certain situations bravery isn't enough, and initiative can be grounds for punishment.

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