Sticky business: Cops seize activist propaganda

Sticky business: Cops seize activist propaganda
Russian police have started an administrative case against activists of the unregistered political party Parnas after finding a large batch of illegal propaganda in its Urals office.

­On November 1 the police raided the Yekaterinburg office of the unregistered party and seized over 9,000 adhesive stickers with text that allegedly slandered the Russian parliamentary majority United Russia party and also the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the Liberal Democratic Party. Russian daily Obshaya Gazeta wrote that it was Parnas activist Leonid Volkov who sponsored the release of the stickers, but also quoted the secretary of the regional branch of the organization as saying that the stickers had been delivered from Moscow.

United Russia officials blasted the attempt of unfair competition on the part of Parnas, but said they suspected that someone else could be behind the sticker scandal, in particular United Russia’s competitors Fair Russia, who share the same political platform but criticize United Russia’s means.

“It is not the first time the ruling party is facing this sort of unlawful actions. Practically any political force in the region can be behind it,” the head of United Russia’s propaganda department Andrey Rusakov has said. But various reports suggest that Parnas could be working in the interests of not some Russian political force but a foreign sponsor.

When the WikiLeaks scandal broke out in 2010 the released embassy cables usually contained the diplomats’ opinions and reprints of local media reports, but in one case they related an actual meeting between Russian and US politicians – it was the January 2010 meeting between Michael McFaul of the National Security Council and Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Milov and Vladimir Ryzhkov, who were then heading the Solidarity Movement but then all joined the yet-unregistered Parnas.

At the meeting the Russian politicians openly said that Vladimir Putin must be prevented from winning back the presidency in 2012 and criticized Barack Obama for unwillingness to pressure the Russian government for greater political freedom.

After the meeting the US administration paid some attention to Parnas’s efforts, in particular Secretary of State Hillary Clinton openly criticized Russia for not registering Nemtsov's party.

In July 2011 Russian press broke a story of one of Parnas activists who expressed concern over the movement’s leaders’ excessive attention to foreign allies. Maksim Petrovich, a member of Parnas’s Political Council for Moscow Region, said that the movement was financed from abroad and reported to foreign sponsors.

Petrovich said that the US State Department was allocating money to major NGOs, such as and the National Endowment for Democracy and these organizations distribute money between Russian opposition even though the NGOs are not officially represented in the country. He also said that the opposition received funds from the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute in the forms of grants, but the money originated in the State Department anyway.

The policies of Parnas are drawing criticism not only from their political opponents, but even from fellow democrats. One of the most prominent liberal politicians in Russia, Valeria Novodvorskaya, said in an interview with the Echo of Moscow radio that “Parnas has died and its death was very pathetic.”  Novodvorskaya blasted Parnas’s attempts to co-operate with the extreme left and said that “not only we cannot rely on this party to run the country, we cannot rely on it to own a rabbit.”