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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moving Together Tries to Tame Grozny Youth

GROZNY -- The new building stands out like a false tooth in the rotten stumps of Grozny's skyline.

In this gleaming white enclave, surrounded by a wall so high only glimpses of the surrounding artillery-shattered apartment blocks can be seen, Moscow has a new weapon to tame rebellious Chechens -- a youth center.

The center was rebuilt by Moving Together, a youth group that is fanatical in its support of President Vladimir Putin.

"There is a great need for us in Grozny. For many years children in Chechnya have had no access to education," said Yaroslav Zamichkin, a 22-year-old Muscovite who moved to Chechnya 18 months ago to be deputy head of the center. "We support the president. You could say we are like the Komsomol, but without the politics."

The outer walls and courtyard of the center in Grozny are decorated with slogans exhorting members to avoid drugs, respect their elders and eschew nationalism. To show quite how dangerous nationalism is, the slogan is illustrated by a Nazi swastika.

The youth group insists -- in defiance of the soldiers on every main road and the devastated city in which they live -- that Chechnya is an absolutely normal part of Russia.

"We plan to refurbish the park. We want to plant trees there," said Zamichkin, referring to a patch of wasteland surrounded by pocked and scarred buildings. "We want children all across Russia to talk to each other. They are all Russian children and have the same interests."

The building contains Grozny's only movie theater -- which was showing "Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King" -- its second Internet center, one of its first boxing rings, a creche, a weight room and a library.

With such facilities, all spotlessly clean, it is popular. Officials said the center gained 700 members in the first 10 days since it opened in early March. "Just think, there has not been a movie theater in Grozny for a decade. Ten-year-old Chechens genuinely do not know what a movie theater means," said local volunteer Aslanbek Chuchayev.

Not only 10-year-olds were amazed by the facilities. "We do sports, we use the Internet. This is where we spend our free time after school," said Abur-Bakar, 18.

To join the group, the Chechen teenagers and children have to sign a declaration that their beliefs are in line with Moving Together, and face a grilling from the leaders. "There were questions like: 'What is your opinion of terrorism?', 'Do you smoke?', 'Have you been abroad?' You have to answer 'no' to those. Although I have no idea why they asked that last one," said Timur, 18.

Zamichkin said, "All our children are in favor of a big, united Russia."

Timur was not quite so sure.

He declined to answer when asked what he thought of the separatists. When asked whether he loved Putin, he laughed. "Who doesn't love the president?"