Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Political participation

Some political participation in Russia is profitable.

Polishing Putin: hacked emails suggest dirty tricks by Russian youth group: Nashi runs web of online trolls and bloggers paid to praise Vladimir Putin and denigrate enemies, group claims
A pro-Kremlin group runs a network of internet trolls, seeks to buy flattering coverage of Vladimir Putin and hatches plans to discredit opposition activists and media, according to private emails allegedly hacked by a group calling itself the Russian arm of Anonymous.

The group has uploaded hundreds of emails it says are to, from and between Vasily Yakemenko, the first leader of the youth group Nashi… its spokeswoman, Kristina Potupchik, and other activists. The emails detail payments to journalists and bloggers…

Apparently sent between November 2010 and December 2011, the emails appear to confirm critics' longstanding suspicions that the group uses sinister methods, funded by the Kremlin, to attack perceived enemies and pay for favourable reports while claiming that Putin's popularity is unassailable…

Several emails sent from activists to Potupchik include price lists for pro-Putin bloggers and commenters, indicating that some are paid as much as 600,000 roubles (£12,694) for leaving hundreds of comments on negative press articles on the internet. One email, sent to Potupchik on 23 June 2011, suggests that the group planned to spend more than R10m to buy a series of articles about its annual Seliger summer camp in two popular Russian tabloids…

The leak comes as Putin faces the greatest challenge to his rule since first coming to power 12 years ago, with mass street demonstrations building momentum before a presidential vote on 4 March that is expected to return him to the presidency after a four-year interlude as prime minister.

Nashi was created precisely to stand up to any such challenge to Putin's rule. It was formed in 2005 after pro-democracy revolutions in neighbouring Ukraine and Georgia. Thousands of Nashi activists, mostly bussed into the Russian capital from neighbouring provinces, took to the streets in December as Russia's protest movement took hold after a contested parliamentary vote…

The correspondence goes some way towards explaining the apparent paranoia, showing how Nashi… spends huge sums of money to create the illusion of Putin's unfailing popularity…

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