Pro-Kremlin youth group blamed for attacking paper

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The Independent Online

The Russian newspaper Kommersant, one of the country's last bastions of free speech, appears to be under attack from the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi this week, apparently as revenge for referring to them as "frenzied chavs".

Since Monday, people posing as employees have been handing out rolls of toilet paper outside various Moscow metro stations emblazoned with the newspaper's logo. The rolls were printed with a "letter from the editor" and contained the mobile phone number of the reporter responsible for the reference, which was published in January.

Nashi was set up with Kremlin assistance in 2005 to counter the threat of a Ukrainian-style "orange revolution". Its mass summer camps and well-organised street demonstrations have led some to compare it to the Hitler Youth.

Kommersant's article quoted sources in the administration saying that the Kremlin planned to disband Nashi as it had become an embarrassment.

"We have fairly good reasons to suspect that it's Nashi," said Pavel Filenkov, the commercial director of Kommersant's publishing house, who said the paper would be taking legal action against the organisers for illegally using its trademarks and falsely attributing words to its editor.

Several Russian websites published a leaked email allegedly written by Nashi's press secretary Kristina Potupchik, pressing people to action. "Block their work. Psychologically and physically pester them. Revenge is essential,"it said.

The email suggests buying up the entire print run of the paper and destroying it, picketing its presses and using hackers to bring down its website.

Ms Potupchik denied writing the email and said that the campaign has "nothing to do with Nashi".

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