Mongolia’s ‘eco-Nazis’ target foreign miners

Mongolia’s ‘eco-Nazis’ target foreign miners

ULAN BATOR - A silver swastika hanging around his neck, Boldbaatar Gombodorj points out his targets on a map of Mongolia like a World War II commander: little flags representing foreign mining firms that he and fellow "eco-Nazis" accuse of destroying their country.

Mongolia's mining boom has brought the vast, sparsely populated country immense wealth but also inequality and ecological damage, and now fringe ultranationalist environmentalist movements are emerging in response.

Herders have roamed Mongolia's steppe for centuries, while the country only threw off the Soviet yoke after decades of domination, creating fertile ground for a mix of communal land rights and nationalism that can turn into unashamed racism.

"Here we want people with Mongolian hearts and Mongolian blood," says Gombodorj.

"Those who pollute the rivers and springs taint their purity, and they should be punished by death," he adds, citing the revered Mongol warrior Genghis Khan, whose portrait adorns the walls.

Gombodorj, a 56-year-old retired soldier whose first name means "hero forged from steel", sports a thick moustache and cauliflower ears from wrestling, the national sport.

He says the swastika is an ancient Mongol symbol and that his group, Fight for the Security of Mongolia, does not support fascism. But other campaigners openly identify themselves as neo-Nazis and reference the Third Reich.

When Gombodorj joined the army he knelt on the ground, held a Mongolian flag to his forehead and "swore to defend every inch of our land. And now it is being sold into the hands of foreigners", he says.

He is ready to embrace violence for his cause, he adds. A few weeks ago his group ended up in a tense standoff with armed guards at a South Korean-owned mine.

"We would have fired if they had," says Gombodorj.

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