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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Annals of Russian Hypocrisy

The Moscow Times reports that in neo-Soviet Russia those who protest AGAINST the Kremlin go to prison while those who protest FOR the Kremlin get audiences with power. As the MT puts it: "Some activists get jail, some get Lavrov."

National Bolshevik youth get arrested for protests. Nashi youth get invited to meet with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The difference? One is an anti-Kremlin, unregistered youth organization, while the other is a pro-Kremlin youth movement. Twenty-one National Bolshevik activists are currently in police custody, awaiting trial on various charges, group officials said at a news conference Wednesday. Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of the Russia's oldest human rights organization, the Moscow Helsinki Group, said at the news conference that the National Bolsheviks who had been arrested under President Vladimir Putin's reign were "the biggest group of political prisoners in Russia."

"Under [President Boris] Yeltsin, there were no problems for us," National Bolshevik leader Eduard Limonov said in a subsequent telephone interview. "It was when Putin began his term that our political repression began." Limonov said more than 120 National Bolshevik activists had been through the prison system since 1999, including Limonov himself. In most cases, the activists were sentenced for participation in nonviolent protests, such as the hanging of posters demanding that Putin resign or the brief seizure of federal government offices during calls for better social guarantees. Limonov and Alexeyeva said the disparity in authorities' treatment of the anti- and pro-Kremlin activists should no longer be tolerated. Meanwhile, Lavrov invited Nashi leader Vasily Yakemenko to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to ask his activists to stop harassing British Ambassador Anthony Brenton.

"Organized political protests should keep within the framework of the law, including Russia's international obligations under the Vienna Convention," Lavrov said, Interfax reported. Lavrov added that he respected Nashi's constitutional right to protest.

Nashi activists have hounded Brenton since August for his decision to take part in the oppositional Other Russia conference, which promoted civil society in Russia and in which Limonov was a participant. Nashi has staged noisy protests outside the British Embassy. Nashi activists have intimidated Brenton, the British Embassy has said, leading it to file a complaint with the Foreign Ministry. The British Embassy welcomed Lavrov's remarks, saying in a statement, "We look to the Russian authorities to ensure there is no repeat of the harassment experienced by our ambassador in recent months." Nashi had no immediate comment on whether it would leave the ambassador alone, but it scorned Alexeyeva's support of Limonov. It said in a statement that the state of human rights in Russia had entered a "deep crisis" because "never before has a defender of human rights come out in defense of a fascist punk."

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