Russia's opposition slams 'smears' 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.

The website Life News late Monday posted 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.

He also describes gossip columnist Bozhena Rynska, who was detained at a recent rally, as "a complete bitch and he can also be heard deriding the calls prominent rights activist Lev Ponomaryov.

The release of the recordings comes as a coalition of opposition activists is trying to drum up support for a new rally to protest the victory of Vladimir Putin's ruling party in elections earlier this month that they say was fixed.

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

Putin, the current prime minister 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.

"The aim of this provocation is obvious," Nemtsov said on Dozhd television channel. "It is not to allow a mass rally on December 24 ... and the second aim is to introduce a split in the ranks of the opposition."

Nemtsov, once voted Russia's sexiest politician, apologised to Chirikova and Rynska on his blog, and sat side-by-side with Chirikova in the studio.

Chirikova came out in support of Nemtsov, calling the publication "absolutely vile and despicable" and accusing the ruling party of involvement.

"The swindlers and thieves are doing all they can to divert us in our battle with them," she said, using a nickname coined by popular blogger Alexei Navalny for the ruling United Russia party.

Spokeswoman Olga Shorina told AFP that Nemtsov had listened to the recordings and found that some were edited or had words 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 also features on the tapes.

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

The same Life News website earlier published hacked e-mails from the account of the Golos election monitoring group, which worked to publicise violations ahead of the December 4 parliamentary polls.

Russian opposition figures have been targeted in various ways. Last year, several prominent figures like anti-Kremlin satirist Viktor Shenderovich were lured into a honeytrap by a young woman named Katya, only for sex videos to appear on the Internet.

On Monday, a hacker wiped the blog of acclaimed detective novelist Boris Akunin, who spoke at the December 10 protest, leaving a mocking message saying that now he had something to talk about at rallies.

© 2011 AFP

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