Kremlin youth camp opens in support of Putin
Thousands of pro-Kremlin youth on Friday kicked off a month-long extravaganza in the Russian woods devoted to praising the country's leaders and its Soviet heritage.
The annual Lake Seliger summer camp started in 2005, organised by the Nashi (Ours) youth movement, which sprang up in support of then president Vladimir Putin and developed into a political force with open Kremlin backing.
It has since mobilised its base of students into a well-run machine that stages rallies outside Western embassies at times of diplomatic friction and on occasion provokes confrontations with Russian human rights group.
The camp opened Friday beside the Lake Seliger in the central Russian region of Tver with promises of four weeks of lectures on how to become a model citizen, stay fit and benefit the country.
"This forum unites our most talented and enterprising youth," President Dmitry Medvedev told the gathering in a message quoted by Seliger organisers.
The group's website -- which pointedly has an .su Internet domain inherited from the Soviet era rather than the .ru domain now used in Russia -- said it expected 20,000 people to attend "from more than 80 countries".
It added somewhat bizarrely that organisers intended to use up seven tonnes of paper to print various leaflets, and to deliver "more than 500,000 hours of educational courses and lectures".
The forum's 10 event categories include an international section on "creating an attractive image of Russia in the eyes of foreigners" and one charged with encouraging more Nashi supporters into journalism.
The group said the event's 200-million-ruble ($7.2-million) budget was being funded by the national bank Sberbank and some local companies, along with international giants with a broad presence in Russia such as Panasonic and LG.
The camp runs to August 2.
Russia's beleaguered opposition tried to stage a rival camp it billed as an "Anti-Seliger" on the outskirts of Moscow last month. But the event drew almost no mention in the national media.
© 2011 AFP