Pro-Putin youth group to start election patrols

Last updated 00:00 19/09/2007

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Russia's pro-Kremlin youth have vowed to begin vigilante type patrols on the streets of Russian cities to preserve order during upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.

The Nashi movement, which says its aim is to support President Vladimir Putin against Russia's enemies at home and abroad, will start the Soviet-style patrols ahead of parliamentary elections set for December 2.

"We understand that our country must live through difficult months – December is approaching," Nashi said in a statement on its www.nashi.su Web site.

"But we are convinced that our professionalism and training will guarantee citizens calm and order on the streets of our cities," Nashi said.

The group came to prominence last year when it hounded the British ambassador for months after he attended an anti-Kremlin conference.

During Soviet times, specially organised people's patrols would scan the streets for people who they suspected were breaking the law.

Nashi denies it is funded by the Kremlin, but its members meet Putin at least once a year and senior advisors – such as deputy Chief-of-Staff Vladislav Surkov – patronise the group's annual youth camp.

Opponents say Nashi was created to head off any chance of Ukrainian-style mass protests in the run up to the March 2008 presidential vote, when a successor to Putin will be elected.

Russian officials denounced the 2004 Ukrainian uprising, which prevented the Moscow-backed candidate from coming to power, as a US plot to undermine Russian influence in the former Soviet Union.

Nashi says Putin has provoked the wrath of traitors abroad and at home who are plotting to undermine his attempt to build a great Russia.

The group puts much emphasis on flag waving and playing Russia's national anthem while leader Vasily Yakemenko has said the United States and Western powers want to steal Siberia from Russia.

It has singled out former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who has become an opposition leader since being sacked by Putin in 2004, for particular scorn. Nashi brands him as a foreign funded traitor who is mentally ill.

Nashi, which means "ours" in Russian, said police officers had explained to activists how to keep order during mass meetings. It was unclear what legal sanction the Nashi activists would have.

"The activists. . . are preparing for the December events and will provide security," Nashi said, adding that its activists would "help the Moscow police control the situation."

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- Reuters

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