The immediate context for this is a worsening of relations between Russia and Ukraine after Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko decided in mid October to elevate the members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, active during the Second World War against both German and Soviet forces, to the status of national heroes.
- On October 18, ESM activists climbed Mount Hoverla in the Carpathians. Mount Hoverla is Ukraine's highest mountain, and a national symbol. The ESM activists destroyed some Ukrainian monuments, unfurled the Eurasian flag, and renamed the mountain "Mount Stalin." See photos.
- On October 30, the ESM launched attacks against the website of the Ukrainian president.
- On November 2, the Ukrainian security service (SBU) seized explosives from a left-luggage office at Simferopol railway station. According to the SBU, ESM activists intended to use the explosives on November 4, Russia's Day of National Unity.
These ESM accepted responsibility for the first two of these "actions," and has not yet commented on the third.
The first action was described as vandalism. The second might be called either vandalism or cyberwarfare (see "Estonia and Russia: A cyber-riot," The Economist, May 10th 2007). The third, because of the presence of explosives, would probably be called terrorism.
In fact, from the perspective of terrorist theory, the distinction between vandalism and terrorism is relatively unimportant. The political objectives of the use of violence are the same, whatever the type of violence, and whether the violence is used against property or persons. Blowing people up, of course, involves playing for higher stakes than climbing mountains.
It is not known whether or not the ESM was intending to use explosives against persons, but the violence of its "actions" may be increasing and tending in that direction.
- Escalation from vandalism against property to attacks on persons is a pattern familiar to terrorism analysts. The Baader-Meinhof gang started off by attacking a department store, for example.
- Fully-fledged terrorist groups have been inspired by Traditionalism before, in Italy in the 1970s.