MOSCOW: The Russian authorities said Tuesday that they were investigating a video recording of what appeared to be the grisly execution of two bound and gagged young men, filmed in a forest beneath a large Nazi flag. At least one of the men was beheaded on camera as he lay in a shallow grave.
The video, which appeared Sunday on several Russian ultranationalist Web sites, circulated on the Internet with a note from a previously unknown organization that called itself the National-Socialist Party of Russia. The note announced that a “military vanguard” had begun an armed struggle against “black colonists and those who support them from the Russian government.”
It demanded the expulsion from Russia of all Asians and people from the Caucasus and the granting of independence to all of the Russian republics in the Caucasus.
The note also called for the resignation of President Vladimir Putin and for the establishment of a government formed by Dmitry Rumyantsev, the leader of the National-Socialist Society, a neo-Nazi group.
It further demanded the release of Maksim Martsinkevich, the leader of Format 18, another Russian neo-Nazi group, who has been held since last month on charges of fomenting ethnic hatred and threatening violence.
It was not clear when or where the video was made.
But Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the SOVA Center, a private organization that examines hate crimes in Russia, said the video appeared to be real. Mark Tolchinsky, the acting spokesman for the Interior Ministry of Dagestan, a Russian republic in the Caucasus, said that investigators in Dagestan had watched the video, and also believed it to be authentic.
Slightly less than three minutes long, the video begins with scenes of the countryside and the title, “Operation of the National-Socialist Party of Russia to arrest and execute two colonists from Dagestan and Tajikistan.” For a date, it lists only 2007.
The video then shows two terrified dark-skinned men kneeling in the forest under a Nazi flag. Each man speaks through a gag in accented Russian, saying only, “We were arrested by National Socialists.” One has been bound with heavy tape, the other with rope.
One of their captors shouts “Glory to Russia!” and then lunges forward and decapitates one of the men with what appears to be a large knife. Heavy metal music plays throughout.
Later, the second captive is shown kneeling, head lowered. The bolt of a gun is heard to slam closed. The prisoner is shot in the head and falls face down into a grave.
The video ends with two men in camouflage uniforms and black masks giving the Nazi salute.
The graphic scenes drew heavy traffic on Russian-language Web sites, and prompted intensive commentary on Internet discussion groups. Many viewers, including those who identified themselves as nationalists, expressed horror and denounced the acts.
Nationalist Russian politicians reacted similarly, and said the video was meant to discredit them. “This video tarnishes our image most of all,” Evgeny Valyaev, an assistant to Nikolai Kuryanovich, a nationalist member of the lower house of Parliament, said by telephone.
“It’s a provocation, it’s clear,” he added. “In the near future, similar things will happen.”
A spokesman for the prosecutor general confirmed that the Interior Ministry and the FSB, a successor agency to the Soviet KGB, were conducting an investigation, but provided no further comment.
Irina Zubareva, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry, told Ria Novosti, the Russian state press agency, that the video was originally posted from two foreign Internet domains. That claim could not be confirmed.
Format 18 did not reply to queries sent by e-mail. A court in Moscow on Monday ordered Martsinkevich, the group’s leader, to be held in pretrial confinement.
Martsinkevich, who uses the name Hatchet, burst into a debate between two journalists on the state of democracy in Russia earlier this year with about 20 followers, and shouted “Sieg Heil!” and “slaughter the liberals!” while making Nazi salutes. Since his arrest, his supporters have labeled him a “prisoner of conscience.”
There was no immediate indication whether the video had been made by members of his group, his sympathizers or – as many ultranationalists on Web sites suggested – by people seeking to discredit him and the larger movement he has personified.
Verkhovsky, who studies hate crimes, said the party claiming to have made the video had never been heard of before, and might be a very small number of people, as few as two or three.
“Usually, such things are not done by members of well-known organizations, but by marginal people, even marginal for such movements,” he said.
Videotaped beheadings and executions, a gruesome propaganda tool used by insurgents by Iraq, have a history in Russia that predates the Iraq war.
Chechen separatists have been accused of beheading captured Russian soldiers since the first Chechen war, in 1994, and recordings of such grisly acts have circulated in markets in the Caucasus for years.
Three British citizens and a New Zealander working for a British telecommunications company were abducted in Chechnya and beheaded in 1998. Before they were killed, the men were forced to confess on videotape to spying.
In recent years, neo-Nazis have also begun using Web sites and video to broadcast their violence and message, often showing severe beatings of immigrants.
Verkhovsky said the video of the apparent execution and beheading was new ground for ultranationalists and Russia’s neo-Nazis, and perhaps a “symmetrical reaction to Chechnya,” where macabre video first became a staple for illegal groups.
Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting.