Pro-Putin Youth Group Looks To Preempt Postelection Rallies
Russia – Scanned copy of a leaflet of pro-Kremlin youth group ‘Nashi’ planned to be distributed on December 3rd, Dec2007
One of the Nashi fliers calling for supporters to take to the streets after the vote
November 30, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi is trying to prevent opposition groups from staging demonstrations after the December 2 parliamentary elections by making sure they control the streets first.
The group is printing leaflets urging supporters to turn out in force to celebrate after the vote. The leaflets, which will reportedly be distributed on election day, appear to be an effort to preempt any possibility of an Orange Revolution-style protest by Russia's opposition.
"The president and his party have prevailed with a shattering result," one leaflet reads. "They won, just as in the last five years they have destroyed the terrorists in Chechnya, paid off Russia's debt, and restored our country's respect."
Another features a caricature of Uncle Sam sitting on bags of money marked with the names of Russian opposition leaders. "The USA had another plan," the leaflet reads. "They wanted traitors and thieves to win -- the American citizen [Garry] Kasparov, the fascist [Eduard] Limonov, and the traitor [Boris] Nemtsov."
It then warns that the opposition plans to "block squares and buildings, create chaos, and take away our victory."
The pro-Kremlin party Unified Russia, with Putin on top of its election list, is expected to win a large majority of the vote in Sunday's election. Critics say they expect widespread falsification of election results.
The OSCE's election-monitoring agency has been a constant presence at past elections in Russia and the former Soviet Union.
But the organization this month announced it would not send ODIHR monitors to Russia this time, saying the Russian government -- which imposed strict limitations on the number of monitors welcome, and dragged its heels on visa processing -- had made it next to impossible to carry out its mission.
Robert Amsterdam -- a member of jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky's defense team and the author of a popular blog on Russian affairs -- was among the first to post images of the leaflets, which circulated on Russian websites throughout the day.
"These items of propaganda urge Putin supporters to take to the streets in premature celebration, to defend the outcome before it is officially announced," Amsterdam wrote on his blog today. "It is, in many ways, an open gesture of confession that even Nashi don't believe that a real election is taking place."
Initially, a debate emerged on Russian websites about whether the leaflets were real, or a provocation against Putin and Nashi. But the Russian news website newsru.com quoted Nashi press secretary Kristina Potupchik as confirming that the group was printing the leaflets.
Stoking fears that a replay of Georgia's 2003 Rose Revolution or Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution could take place in Russia has been a mainstay of the Kremlin's election campaign.
A prime-time documentary aired on state-controlled Rossia television on September 30 -- titled "Barkhat.ru" -- or "Velvet.ru" -- alleged that the CIA was planning to overthrow the Kremlin elite with an Orange Revolution-style uprising in Russia.
The slickly produced report places the CIA at the epicenter of a massive conspiracy to overthrow the Kremlin leadership involving opposition groups such as Other Russia, of which Kasparov is a prominent leader; pro-democracy youth organizations, such as Smena; foreign NGOs, like Freedom House; and the Western mass media.
In keeping with the theme, Putin, in a speech to Unified Russia activists on November 21, characterized the opposition as "jackals" scavenging for money at foreign embassies in order to destabilize Russia.