On Tuesday, Nashi pulled off its best prank yet on the hapless Russian opposition. In the words of Nezavisimaya gazeta, the stunt “will undoubtedly go down in the history of Russian youth politics as the greatest failure in the last ten years.” Nashi is known for its acts of political trickery and harassment. Over the last few years they’ve hounded British Ambassadors, distributed toilet paper editions of Kommersant, and sent Christmas presents to foreign leaders. But their latest salvo was priceless.
It went down as follows. About a week ago, Mikhail Volkhonsky, a Nashi activist from Yaroslavl contacted Ilya Yashin saying he was willing to give testimony about Nashi’s spy operation against the opposition. Volkhonsky claimed to have been spying on the Yaroslavl chapter of Kasparov’s outfit, United Civil Front, as well as gathered information on the opposition in neighboring cities. According to Yashin, Volkhonsky claimed that he had a video showing “Yakemenko discussing the necessity of taking control of opposition organizations.” Volkhonsky refused to give Yashin the video out of “fear” but offered to go in front of the media and “show and tell them everything.” Thinking he had gold, Yashin called a press conference.
And gold it was. Fool’s gold, that is. For, the press wasn’t treated a video showing Nashi’s behind the scenes scheming against the opposition. Instead they got treated to clips showing “opposition” youth boozing after a protest, screwing a 14 year old girl, downing vodka, and snorting coke. “Presently, the ranks of the opposition are characterized by drinking, hooliganism and the seduction of minors,” Volkhonsky explained to reporters. “I want to explain that everything you see here are the usual acts of the United Civil Front. The most marginal elements surround Kasparov and other our (sic) leaders. Here you have mass drunkenness, debauchery, lechery, and drugs.” Yashin quickly took the microphone and called Volkhonsky’s act a “provocation.”
Yashin and Yabloko is calling Volkhonsky’s video nothing but kompromat. True. But it also shows how downright gulible the opposition is. Some of the figures shown in the video aren’t oppositionists at all but resemble activists from pro-Kremlin groups. For example, one activist featured among a group of drunken oppositionists looks like a known member of Molodaia gvardiia. One of the youths shown snorting cocaine is supposed to be Andrei Poliakov, a leader of Red Youth Vanguard, but looks nothing like him. Here are the videos shown at the press conference:
The prank was in response to the unmasking of Nashi spies in various oppositionist youth groups a few weeks ago. Reporters have been trying to get an official response from Nashi but to no avail. In some quarters of Nashi world, the charges have simply been met with ridicule. One Nashi blogger from Voronezh, MC_Masters, wrote that “now that all the Nashi spies have been driven out, no one comes to the [opposition’s] actions.” In response to the claim that 7 of the 12 Yabloko Youth members in St. Petersburg were Nashi spies, he added “More than half of the Russian “opposition” are embedded Nashi commissars. That’s just excellent.”
But clearly Nashi need not bother themselves with official responses. Not when their pranks speak volumes.