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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Annals of Kremlin Electoral Hypocrisy

The Moscow Times reports that although the opposition party to Putin was banned from marching in Nizhny Novgorod and arrested when tried, the pro-Kremlin youth cult "Nashi" (us Slavic Russians) was free to do as they liked in Moscow. In fact, the police guarded and protected them, whereas in Nizhny they attacked the opposition.

Some 15,000 young people rallied throughout the city center Sunday for an event organized by the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi to celebrate the seventh anniversary of President Vladimir Putin's election. Participants, dressed in identical red hats and white T-shirts, handed out glossy pocket brochures titled "The President's Messenger" on Pushkin Square, Triumfalnaya Ploshchad and Prospekt Akademika Sakharova, near Leningradsky Station, among other locations. The brochure bears an image of a cell phone with the state coat of arms, the two-headed eagle. The same image was also on the hats and T-shirts.

The 30-page booklet warns of the dangers facing the country if the people are not vigilant and cautions that Russia could lose its independence. It is illustrated with photos of Hitler; Andrei Vlasov, a World War II general who fought on the German side after being captured; Eduard Limonov, leader of the unregistered National Bolshevik Party; former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov; and U.S. President George W. Bush.

As part of the cell phone motif, Nashi organizers urged Moscow residents to send instant text messages to Putin at a special number. Those gathered at Pushkin Square were able to read some of the messages as they were flashed across a giant screen. Nashi leader Vasily Yakimenko said that a collection of the messages would be published later, Interfax reported. The Interior Ministry had 5,000 police mobilized to provide security for the event, with 2,500 located in the city center, Interfax said.

Meanwhile, Kasparaov's "Other Russia" wasn't the only party to come under attack recently. The Moscow Times also reports that Vladimir Ryzhkov's "Republican Party" has been banned by the Kremlin entirely:

The Supreme Court on Friday ordered that Vladimir Ryzhkov's Republican Party be disbanded for failing to adhere to a law that requires parties to have at least 50,000 members and 45 regional offices.

Ryzhkov (pictured above, right), an independent deputy in the State Duma, accused the court of blindly listening to the Federal Registration Service's arguments and promised to appeal to the presidium of the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

"The court decided to believe the Federal Registration Service rather than properly explore the presented evidence," Ryzhkov told reporters after the verdict.

Ryzhkov and his lawyers presented five cartloads of documents Thursday, the first day of the two-day hearing, in an effort to convince Judge Yury Tolcheyev that the party complied with the 2004 law on parties.

Lawyers for the Federal Registration Service, however, said Thursday that a check of the party had found that it had only 39,500 members and 33 branches with the required 500 or more members, Kommersant reported.

The registration service's representative in the court, Galina Fokina, expressed satisfaction with Friday's ruling.

But the leaders of fellow opposition parties spoke out in support of the Republican Party, which was founded in 1990 and recently absorbed the political wing of the Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committees.


"I regret this decision," senior Yabloko official Sergei Ivanenko said, Interfax reported. "One of Russia's oldest democratic parties has fallen victim to the draconian law."

Ivanenko said Yabloko would encourage the party's members to join its ranks if the presidium of the Supreme Court rejects Ryzhkov's appeal.

Nikita Belykh, head of the Union of the Right Forces, or SPS, called the ruling "an example of the selective application of law."

Belykh said federal checks on several other parties had improperly found them in compliance with the law. He did not identify the parties. SPS has cooperated with the party in the past, allowing its members to run on the SPS party list in recent legislative elections in Perm.

The registration service has found 16 parties in noncompliance with the 2004 law, according to its web site. Prior to the Friday verdict, the Federal Registration Service had won lawsuits to liquidate five of the parties, including the Eurasian Union and the People's Republican Party.

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