By Florian Rötzer
A new youth movement has emerged in Russia and Ukraine that is being watched with suspicion by both countries and persecuted.
Young people characterize the PMC Redan movement as suddenly appearing in flash mobs in public places and instigating brawls.
The youth are responding to the patriotism enacted by the war in both countries by engaging in anarchic violence while ridiculing the war and subversively undermining the war order.
The movement is spreading virally.
The authorities respond to the transnational movement similarly, propagandizing that they are controlled from abroad, in Ukraine, of course, from Russia.
They also call themselves PMC, meaning private military company, in reference to the Wagner mercenary army.
There could also be a reference to the many volunteer units in Ukraine that, although formally subordinated to the Ministry of Interior or Defense, also remain private militias.
The acronym PMC is meant ironically, although it also flirts with being a powerful group.
Redan is a group from the manga Hunter × Hunter, of which there is also an anime series, motion pictures, and computer games.
Here, the enemy is a feared “phantom squad” (Gen’ei Ryodan), whose 13 members bear the tattoo of a twelve-legged spider.
They come from Meteor City, a run-down city inhabited by outcasts, and have committed massacres against members of the Kurta clan or the mafia, among others.
Those not inside this fantasy world do not understand anything about the saga. In any case, young people take this troupe as a model because they are outcasts who rebel against the established powers.
That’s why young people call themselves freaks.
Lenta.ru traces the name back to the well-known Russian DotA rapper Shadowraze, who is all about the computer game Dota 2 and from whom comes the line “We are spiders, we are a generation, Redan is with me.”
In Russia, Japanese manga and anime are also frowned upon; anime like “Death Note,” “Tokyo Ghoul,” and “Inuyashiki” have been banned because young people dress like heroes and act out violent scenes.
This is also the case with PMC Redan fans.
They like to appear with longer hair, wearing plaid pants and black T-shirts with the spider symbol and, usually, the number 4, and they seem to especially rough up supermarkets, the cult sites of consumer culture.
Sometimes they encounter opposing youths, resulting in mass brawls.
They seem to be a counter-movement of middle-class youth to the hooligans, possibly playing more to violence, which also turns into actual violence.
It has been claimed that the movement is directed against “soccer fans, people with non-Slavic appearance and nationalists”, which supporters deny.
In any case, opposing youth groups seem pitted against the long-haired spiders. It is also a kind of gang warfare.
Followers of the movement are chased, beaten, and humiliated by other groups, including having their long hair cut off with a knife or razor.
The Aviapark shopping center in Moscow was the scene of the first such brawls on February 19 and 20, apparently triggered by the clash with hooligans.
Hundreds of youths had appeared as a mob; police arrested dozens, most of whom were 15 years old. Then it continued at the Marcos Mall. In Moscow, 350 youths were reportedly arrested.
In St. Petersburg, 220 youths were arrested for “hooliganism” at the Gallery mall on February 26 after police cordoned off the building.
According to the indictment of some, “they uttered foul obscenities, shouted, behaved aggressively, waved their arms, provoked a brawl, did not respond to comments, expressing their disrespect for society and violating public order.”
PMC-Redan groups are also reported to have appeared in Kursk, Novosibirsk, or Kazan.
The movement is not organized; apparently, the idea of such adventurous but aggressive flash mobs that disrupt order and provoke the use of police is contagious among the youth.
The expectation of violence could increase the thrill; knives and brass knuckles were found among participants.
Meanwhile, deputies also find the phenomenon disturbing.
The chairman of the State Duma Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption, Vasily Piskarev, because his society is naturally not supposed to have anything to do with such rebellion, moreover in wartime, suspects the influence of “hostile states” behind the phenomenon of “destabilized” Russian youth.
He urges the security authorities to investigate this quickly. The subcultural appearance, he said, can only be a means to draw young people into a criminal environment and lure them into riots and brawls.
“The enemy is using our children to achieve their bloodthirsty goals”.
But the movement also quickly appeared in Belarus and especially in Ukraine. In Kyiv, a riot broke out near the Gulliver shopping center.
Here, too, the police intervened.
Other incidents occurred in Kharkiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Odesa. The network connects the states’ youth at war and allows them to spread the rebellion quickly.
For the police chief of the Kharkiv region, Volodymyr Timoshenko, this is just one of the “criminal activities of Russia against children”.
He said that some Russians had launched a flash mob to start fights between teenagers. The police arrested all the teenagers who wanted to participate in the fight.
Presumably, with the massive intervention of the police, the flash mobs will become even more interesting for teenagers.
The police blocked numerous telegram channels of PMC Redan; in Kyiv, 700 teenagers were summoned to the police. People are afraid. In two days, 30 diffuse movement meetings took place in Ukraine.
The head of the Department of Youth Prevention of the National Police, Vasily Bohdan, also sees “Russian propagandists” behind it.
Kyiv police speak of a “dangerous youth movement” and write: “The artificial spread of such a movement is an attempt by Russian propagandists to carry out another informational and psychological operation and involve teenagers in illegal activities.” Children would be used “to destabilize the internal situation in the state.”
Together with the cyber police, the organizers, moderators of the groups on the Internet, and financiers are to be prosecuted. Yesterday, two moderators were detained in Kyiv, a 15-year-old girl, and a 14-year-old boy.
Volodymyr Tymoshko, the Kharkiv police chief, calls on parents to “be vigilant of your children, communicate with them constantly and help them understand what is happening, what is good and what is evil.”
“The war takes place not only on the battlefield. The enemy wants to destroy our country and uses our children to achieve his bloodthirsty goals. Only together can we stop him.”
For the warring societies of Russia and Ukraine, and perhaps Belarus as well, it is disturbing to see the development among young people of a movement that reaches across borders and fronts, that stands at odds with the patriotic mood of war, but at the same time participates in it in its aggressiveness.
And what disturbs national unity can only come from outside.
Officially, a conspiracy theory is being created to exert pressure, to play up the danger, to take massive action against it, and to distract attention from the movement’s problems.
The movement is probably also perceived as particularly dangerous because it is spreading across countries and could perhaps offer an approach in the coming generation to overcoming the deep hostility between Russians and Ukrainians that the state has fomented.
This post was published first here.