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Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Sunday Persecution

The Moscow Times reports:

A Perm journalist has been questioned by local prosecutors and may face criminal charges after he penned an article identifying what he characterized as positive similarities between President Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler.

Igor Averkiyev, 47, editor of the newspaper Lichnoye Delo, was summoned to the city's Leninsky District Prosecutor's Office on Monday to answer questions about an article called "Putin Is Our Good Hitler," published in the newspaper Za Cheloveka in December.

The story compares the eight years of Putin's rule to the early years of Hitler's rule in Nazi Germany.

Prosecutors opened an investigation after receiving a complaint from the Federal Service for Mass Media, Telecommunications and the Protection of Cultural Heritage. The service charged that the story contravened laws in place to battle extremism and demanded that Averkiyev and Sergei Isayev, the publisher of Za Cheloveka, be charged.

The Perm office of the federal body responsible for monitoring compliance with mass media legislation said it found evidence of calls "to change the present constitutional order" in the story.

Perm Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Tatyana Shuvayeva said Averkiyev had only been called in for preliminary questioning and declined to answer any questions about the case until experts had more opportunity to examine the article.

Averkiyev wrote that "like Hitler, Putin is the savior of the Fatherland, the guardian of greatness, stability and order," who also "safeguards the country from enemies, both foreign and domestic."

During the campaign leading up to December's State Duma elections, Averkiyev claimed, Putin "tried on the mantle of 'national leader,' thus practically making a claim to absolute power in Russia, unlimited by elections, parliaments or constitutions -- limited only by the leader's personal ambition and the people's for him."

Reached by telephone Wednesday, Averkiyev had no immediate comment on the case.

Averkiyev is not the first journalist to face prosecution for what were considered insulting portrayals of Putin.

Charges of inciting extremism by Saratov authorities against Sergei Mikhailov, whose newspaper, The Saratov Reporter, published a photo portraying Putin as popular fictional spy Otto von Stirlitz, were only dropped last week.

Ivanovo journalist Vladimir Rakhmankov was convicted in October of publicly insulting a public official and fined 20,000 rubles ($750) for referring to Putin as "a phallic symbol."

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