Russia's opposition slams smear campaign ahead of protest

20th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russian opposition activists complained Tuesday of a smear campaign after a pro-Kremlin website published recordings of their phone calls ahead of a mass protest rally planned in Moscow this week.

Sensationalist website Life News late Monday published nine recordings of phone calls by opposition leader and former cabinet minister Boris Nemtsov, in which he can be heard badmouthing fellow activists using obscenities.

Nemtsov, 52, can be heard saying that another activist, environmentalist campaigner Yevgenia Chirikova is "just a bitch, or else an idiot," after the two disagreed over the venue for a protest.

The publication came as a coalition of opposition activists is urging those dissatisfied with the election victory of Vladimir Putin's ruling party in polls this month to rally in central Moscow on Saturday.

More than 50,000 people gathered in a park opposite the Kremlin for a sanctioned protest on December 10.

Russia's strongman Putin, who plans to reclaim his old Kremlin job in March presidential polls, has repeatedly slammed the opposition leaders, claiming they were in the pay of the US State Department.

Nemtsov's spokeswoman said the publication of the phone calls was aimed at discrediting the opposition leader ahead of the anti-Kremlin rally.

The spokeswoman, Olga Shorina, said Nemtsov had listened to the recordings and found that some were edited or pieced together.

"On the eve of the protest, the authorities are trying to use any methods to reduce the number of participants, including methods that breach the constitution," said Shorina, who features on the tapes.

"Obviously it is a campaign trying to stop the largest number of people possible from going to the protest," she told AFP.

The politician's lawyers are examining the recordings with a view to legal action, she said.

Chirikova came out in support of Nemtsov.

"Decent people do not listen to other people's conversations," she wrote on Twitter. "I hope that Boris sees the organisers and executors of this leak in the dock."

The same website earlier published hacked e-mails from the account of the Golos election monitoring group, which exposed widespread violations ahead of the December 4 parliamentary polls.

In another apparent move to smear the opposition, leading television channel NTV is set to air a documentary on Nemtsov and the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, according to the news website.

An NTV spokeswoman told AFP however: "We know nothing of these plans."

NTV, which is owned by a subsidiary of Gazprom gas giant, earlier showed a smear documentary on Western-funded Golos.

© 2011 AFP

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