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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Crazed Kremlin Keeps Assaulting Britain

The Times of London reports:

A RUSSIAN activist expected to take over a sinister youth group with ties to the Kremlin has warned that a campaign of harassment against the British ambassador in Moscow will be resumed if he shows support for the country’s beleaguered opposition in the run-up to parliamentary elections in December. Nikita Borovikov, 26, who is being groomed to take over Nashi, a 100,000-strong youth movement, later this year, gave a vigorous defence of a previous campaign against Anthony Brenton. The envoy was stalked for several months, an experience he called “psychological harassment bordering on violence”.

“I don’t see anything wrong in the way Nashi expressed its displeasure at the fact that Brenton attended an opposition conference,” said Borovikov. “If he thinks we broke any laws he is welcome to sue.

“Should he again express support for people we think are traitors and fascists, we will do exactly the same. We see it as our duty as patriotic citizens to make sure he hears our protests.”

Shortly after Brenton spoke at a conference last year organised by Other Russia, a coalition of opposition groups headed by Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion, militants from Nashi, which means “our own”, followed the ambassador for six months with a banner demanding he apologise. They shouted abuse as he shopped for cat food, obstructed his car, advertised his movements on the internet and disrupted him when he spoke publicly. The campaign stopped some weeks after the Foreign Office lodged a complaint with the Russian foreign ministry. “What’s the problem?” asked Borovikov. “Why can’t Britain, which is always preaching about democracy, stand someone staging a peaceful protest?”

Renewed intimidation of the ambassador would anger the Foreign Office and further damage Anglo-Russian relations at a time when they are at their most strained since the end of the cold war following Moscow’s refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the prime suspect in the murder of the former KGB officer Alexander Litvin-enko in London. Polite, clean-cut and articulate, the young commissar – as the movement’s deputy leaders are known in honour of Bolshe-vik officials – said he was against extremism but at times his views seemed to differ little from those of generations of KGB cold warriors. Borovikov, who declined to be photographed, said Nashi believed the West was seeking a revolution in Russia similar to popular revolts in the former Soviet states of Georgia and Ukraine. In tune with thinking in the Kremlin, which argues that the uprisings were the work of western intelligence, Nashi says it is determined to prevent a west-ern-backed coup when Russia votes for a parliament in December and a president in March.

“The US, Britain and the rest of Europe don’t like the fact that Russia is becoming strong again,” said Borovikov. “They want to get their hands on our oil and gas and are plotting to try to bring in a government which is open to influence. We will do all we can to safeguard our interests and independence.” Some liberals call them “Nash-ists”, a play on “fascists”, but the group was modelled on the Komsomol, the Communist party youth organisation. It was inspired by Vladislav Surkov, a close aide to President Vladimir Putin who wanted to protect the Kremlin from any uprising such as the one that toppled the government of Ukraine.

Most independent experts believe Ukraine’s “orange revolution” was a genuine popular protest movement but the Kremlin’s mistrust of the West was fuelled by evidence that the US State Department helped fund it. With Kremlin funding and members from 50 Russian cities, Nashi has become a powerful tool in the drive to boost patriotism among the country’s youth. Its activists march in T-shirts emblazoned with Putin’s portrait. The group’s flag, a diagonal white cross on a red background, mixes Soviet and Russian imperial imagery. Besides harassing the British ambassador, the group has also campaigned to mobilise blood donors and crack down on alcohol sales to children. Other activities are more disquieting. Each year the group holds a “summer camp” – Putin and several other Kremlin figures have attended – and this year activists put up large posters of Kasparov and Mikhail Kasy-anov, the former prime minister turned opposition figure, that had been altered to make them look like prostitutes.

When Estonia, the tiny Baltic state, angered the Kremlin in May by moving a Soviet-era military monument, Nashi activists stormed a press conference by Estonia’s ambassador, retreating only when the diplomat’s bodyguards sprayed them with mace. Moving Together, the youth movement from which Nashi evolved, staged public book burnings of works it regarded as unpatriotic. “Nashi will do all it can to help pro-Kremlin parties in the December parliamentary elections,” Borovikov said. “We’ll be picketing the opposition to make sure young people understand that these are puppets of the West who only want to sell out our country.” While Nashi has condemned nationalism, critics say the Kremlin’s endorsement of the youth group’s fervent brand of patriotism has encouraged antiwestern sentiment and intolerance. Last week a member of Kasparov’s party was taken to hospital after being badly beaten by unidentified assailants.

Since coming to power nearly eight years ago, Putin, most recently seen parading a bare chest during a fishing holiday designed to underscore his “strong-man” credentials, has been at the forefront of efforts to make his country more patriotic. The West was alarmed by the resumption last month of reconnaissance flights by Russian bombers along western Europe’s borders, and the aggressiveness is expected to intensify: Russia is set to bolster its military and boost its overseas espionage. “The worrying thing is that whereas 15 years ago young Russians embraced the West with great enthusiasm, now more and more look to us with deep-seated mistrust,” said a former senior British diplomat. “It would not matter, were it not for the fact that they are Russia’s next generation of political leaders.”

A reader writes by e-mail:

This is the Daily Herald (a pro-Soviet British newspaper) of 5th March 1928:
"Moscow March 4, 1928.

A large an enthusiastic crowd of people, mostly ticket-holders, today witnessed a curious but brilliant ceremony at the Moscow aerodrome.14 Battle planes were, with much ceremony, presented to the Red Air Force, and the fuselage of each one bore the following inscription in big red letters: "Our Answer to Chamberlain." (Sir Austen Chamberlain, the British Foreign Secretary of the time).

These Russian built machines are, in fact, the first batch to be delivered out of 66 already built by public conscription subscription to "commemorate" the breach of relations with Great Britain".
Winston Churchill a few months earlier referred to the Soviet government as "treacherous, incorrigible, and unfit for civilised intercourse"

That was 80 years ago. Does anything change? Not, apparently in the government of the Russian state.

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