Thu, Feb 09, 2012 - Page 9 News List

E-mails provide glimpse into youth group’s priorities and means

By Miriam Elder

Hacked e-mails believed to show correspondence between notorious Russian youth group Nashi’s first leader, Vasily Yakemenko, its spokesperson Kristina Potupchik and other activists, appear to reveal the group’s goals, priorities, means and concerns.

Many e-mails concern how to boost positive coverage on the Internet. One includes payments, noting that 200 pro-Putin online comments left on 60 articles cost 600,000 rubles (US$20,200). It also details paid-for coverage.

Two posts about Nashi’s summer camps on one of Russia’s most popular blogs, run by photographer Ilya Varlamov, received 300,000 hits and cost 400,000 rubles. Varlamov denied being paid to cover pro-Putin events. Another e-mail showed Nashi doled out 10 million rubles to buy articles about the Seliger summer camp in the tabloids.

Nashi targets people it considers “enemies,” such as Russian journalists and foreign ambassadors. In an e-mail to Potupchik on Oct. 27, one Nashi activist attached a list of 168 well-known human rights activists, writers, journalists, bloggers, directors, poets and others.

“These are the most vile enemies,” the activist writes. “Because they have personally gone after us or V.”

It is unclear to whom the “V” refers: Vladimir Putin, Vasily Yakemenko or Vladislav Surkov, the ideologue who dreamed up Nashi.

One of its top concerns is the opposition leader Alexei Navalny. In an e-mail on Nov. 11, an activist writes to Yakemenko with a plan for “a series of 40-to-50-second cartoons of a day in the life of the fascist Navalny,” comparing him to Adolf Hitler, showing him making uncontrollable Nazi salutes and forming swastikas.

“Let’s do it, make it funny,” Yakemenko replies, with a smiling emoticon.

A similar video went viral in December.

Several e-mails sent to Potupchik give accounts of the group’s monthly work and expenses. One account of the Saint Petersburg branch’s work in October includes a detailed list of the blogs attacked by Nashi commenters.

It said 10 activists, via 50 accounts on LiveJournal, Russia’s blogging platform of choice, and 50 Twitter accounts, could “regularly monitor LiveJournal publications” of bloggers, such as Navalny and fellow opposition leaders, Boris Nemtsov and Ilya Yashin.

“More than 1,200 comments were left,” it says. “Twelve publications on social-political themes and in support of the prime minister were written, and reposted more than 200 times,” noting that only half the budget of 300,000 rubles was spent.

In some e-mails, Nashi activists and bloggers complain of lack of, or late, payment.

“Why didn’t you tell me there would be no money? For me financial motivation was the most important thing,” one wrote.

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