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The new brownshirts

Paramilitary groups, fanatically loyal to Vladimir Putin, are becoming more powerful in Russia.

Nashi's annual camp, 200 miles outside Moscow, is attended by 10,000 uniformed youngsters and involves two weeks of lectures and physical fitness.

Attendance is monitored via compulsory electronic badges and anyone who misses three events is expelled. So are drinkers; alcohol is banned. But sex is encouraged, and condoms are nowhere on sale.

Bizarrely, young women are encouraged to hand in thongs and other skimpy underwear - supposedly a cause of sterility - and given more wholesome and substantial undergarments.

Twenty-five couples marry at the start of the camp's first week and ten more at the start of the second. These mass weddings, the ultimate expression of devotion to the motherland, are legal and conducted by a civil official.

Attempting to raise Russia's dismally low birthrate even by eccentric-seeming means might be understandable. Certainly, the country's demographic outlook is dire. The hard-drinking, hardsmoking and disease-ridden population is set to plunge by a million a year in the next decade.

But the real aim of the youth camp - and the 100,000-strong movement behind it - is not to improve Russia's demographic profile, but to attack democracy.

Under Mr Putin, Russia is sliding into fascism, with state control of the economy, media, politics and society becoming increasingly heavy-handed. And Nashi, along with other similar youth movements, such as 'Young Guard', and 'Young Russia', is in the forefront of the charge.

Read the rest. The resemblance of these groups to the Nazi SA is frightening.

It never fails to amaze me. A violent and fanatical ideology is spreading through the Muslim world, killing thousands each year and breaking any opposition with murder and intimidation; Russia is quickly becoming a fascist state; China is already there and maintains its power through tight censorship and massive human rights abuses; genocide is occurring in Sudan -- yes, right at this very minute; and a tinpot dictator is dismantling a democracy in South America and using his country's wealth to export this tragedy to neighboring countries. Yet it seems to me that 90% of the outrage over the state of the world is directed at one man.

I truly believe that the intellectuals and media's mad obsession with this one man has given cover and comfort to these regimes. And one day we'll all pay the price for it.

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