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Slovenian Extremist Arrested After Armed March

Nationalist paramilitaries are also on the rise in the Czech Republic, spy agency claims.

7 September 2018

Slovenian authorities are continuing to investigate the incident in which a fringe politician led dozens of armed, uniformed people in training exercises near the border with Austria.

 

Police arrested two people on 6 September for "inciting violent change of constitutional order” as well as weapons and drug offenses, The Associated Press reports.

 

The march leader, Andrej Sisko, was among those detained, according to Slovenian news site 24ur.com.

 

Last Saturday’s incident went viral on local social media. Video showed “several dozen masked men” in military-like outfits and holding axes and rifles, the AP says.

 

Sisko – a non-parliamentary, right-wing party leader and onetime football hooligan with a criminal record for attempted murder – picked up 2 percent of the vote in last year’s presidential election.  Earlier this week he said the participants in the weekend training near the city of Maribor belonged to a “voluntary defense group” and were not paramilitaries, Total Slovenia News reported.

 

Slovenia paramilitaries SiskoSisko's followers form up on the training field. Screen grab from Sisko's Facebook page

 

Leading politicians united in condemning the incident. President Borut Pahor and outgoing Prime Minister Miro Cerar called it completely unacceptable, and Prime Minister-designate Marjan Sarec tweeted that any attempt to circumvent the security mandate of the police and armed forces was illegal.

 

The incident adds to a growing sense of unease in Central Europe over the rise of nationalist, anti-immigrant groups, some of them armed. EU Observer notes the paradox that these groups are flourishing in countries where the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers are almost too small to count.

 

The Czech Republic, an adamant opponent of any European Union refugee redistribution scheme, granted asylum to 145 people last year, about the same number as Slovenia. The country was also willing to take in just 12 migrants who had earlier arrived in Greece and Italy, only a tiny fraction of those whom the EU was hoping other member states would help process.

 

Slovakia recorded only 56 applications for asylum in the first half of this year.

 

Despite the tiny numbers of migrants, many so-called home guard organizations in the Czech Republic say they must be stopped, according to the main Czech intelligence service, BIS, the Prague daily Mlada fronta Dnes reports.

 

The BIS believes the handful of such groups, counting in total around 2,000 members, are “fundamentally xenophobic and racist” and represent a “significant security risk.”

 

Many of these organizations are seeking legitimacy through offers to help ensure public safety side by side with police and firefighters, although so far with little success, Mlada fronta says.

 

 

  • The pro-Russian orientation of some of these groups was underlined recently in Slovakia, when the local branch of the Night Wolves, a Russian motorcycle club close to Vladimir Putin, opened its headquarters in a fenced compound also home to decommissioned tanks and other military hardware.

 

  • In late August the head of the Slovak Night Wolves, Jozef Hambalek, was ordered to pay a fine of 33,000 euros ($38,500) for failing to notify authorities in a timely manner about his use of the military equipment, the Slovak Spectator reported.

 

  • Czech documentarist Jan Gebert’s film “When the War Comes” delves into the lives of the Slovak Recruits, a nationalist group that has used the same compound now home to the Night Wolves.

 

  • Speaking to Radio Prague earlier this year, Gebert said the young Recruit members lack a consistent ideology, beyond rebellion against democracy and capitalism. “You might call them fascists by the way they look, but they also admire Stalin, Putin, the Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia during communism. … Within their organization they create their own rules that are very similar to the mechanism of how all dictatorships start,” he said.

 

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer
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