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Sunday, November 04, 2007

What Russia is Coming to

Does anybody remember Mikhail Zoshchenko in Russia these days? In the how-neo-soviet-can-you-get department, the Moscow Times reports:

They seemed like a few lame jokes. But for the Federal Security Service, they were no laughing matter. The agency's Novosibirsk region branch has accused the Communists of campaign violations for distributing leaflets poking fun at pro-Kremlin party United Russia and President Vladimir Putin, who tops the United Russia ticket in the Dec. 2 State Duma elections.

The Communist Party's Novosibirsk branch late last month stuffed 11,200 leaflets in mailboxes, literature that was critical of other parties and contained jokes about United Russia and Putin, regional Communist spokesman Artyom Skatov said by telephone Thursday. One of the knee-slappers tacked references to Putin and ubiquitous, much-despised sculptor Zurab Tsereteli to a famous saying about poet Alexander Pushkin, Russia's most famous cultural icon: "Now it is clear that Pushkin is our everything, Tsereteli is our everywhere and Putin is our forever." After discovering the mass mailing, the regional FSB branch filed a complaint to local election officials, Skatov said. An FSB spokesman in Novosibirsk declined to comment, and a faxed request for comment to the agency's central headquarters went unanswered Thursday. The complaint, however, did not go too far. [LR: This time. And how far does the FSB HAVE to go before the message is delivered?] Stanislav Palamarchuk, head of the election commission in Novosibirsk's Sovietsky district to whom the claim was addressed, said a review of the party literature in question revealed no violations. Senior Communist official Vadim Solovyov, the party's chief lawyer, said the FSB complaint betrayed a "misunderstanding of many aspects of election laws." The leaflets were "part of our consistent opposition stance, not part of an election campaign," Solovyov said. "It's not campaigning. It's informing." The official Duma campaign kicks off Saturday. Central Elections Commission member Yevgeny Kolyushin said tracking campaign violations "is not the business of the FSB." "They should be busying themselves with catching spies," Kolyushin said.

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