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21 Jul, 2009 06:20

Chants like “Down with Russia” are done with smiles – Tehran journalist

Russia has become the latest country targeted by opposition protesters in Iran. Journalist Nicholas Davies-Jones spoke to RT from Tehran and says it is a new turn of events.

Recent cries of “Down with Russia” are thought to be in response to Moscow’s apparent backing of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, despite claims of vote rigging.

“‘Down with Russia’ was chanted at the morning prayers. Similar chants used in Iran more often are ‘Down with America’ and ‘Down with Israel’. On this occasion, America and Israel were replaced by Russia. However, this time it didn’t really mean ‘Death to Russia’, but rather a common chant of protest. These kinds of chants are done often with smiles on people’s faces,” Davies-Jones said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko said that anti-Russian protest chants were not significant.

“We do not exclude that some sporadic anti-Russian events really have taken place. Some people in Iran – and outside Iran – are unhappy about Russia’s non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs,” said Nesterenko.

“However, such people are few and far between. Generally, public opinion in Iran supports further cooperation and good neighborly relations with Russia,” he added.

Vladimir Sazhin, an analyst from the Moscow-based Institute of Oriental Studies, believes anti-Russian slogans, most likely, will not be adopted by the mainstream opposition in Iran.

“After the June presidential election in Iran, some very different groups came together to protest at Ahmadinejad’s win,” said Sazhin.

“However, the opposition leaders are all prominent politicians: two former Presidents of Iran, a former Premier, a former chair of the Parliament. Under their rule, relations with Russia were good – so I doubt they would have come up with anti-Russian slogans,” Sazhin added.

“I guess these slogans came from a small group of pro-Western intellectuals and students who want a secular society and are unhappy at Russia's neutrality in this situation.”