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Putin youth group pushes ideology

July 7, 2007 at 9:57 PM

MOSCOW, July 7 (UPI) -- Nashi, a Russian youth group working on behalf of President Vladimir Putin, promotes Putin and calls his rivals fascists, The New York Times reported.

Nashi, which translates as "ours," was established two years ago. It has organized large marches in support of Putin as well as demonstrations on foreign policy questions that have featured intimidation of ambassadors from Britain and Estonia, the newspaper said.

The group is well funded and has become what the Times called a disciplined instrument of Putin's campaign for political control in Russia, leading up to parliamentary elections in December and a presidential election in March 2008.

In its literature, Nashi calls itself "Putin's Generation." A spokeswoman for the group, Anastasia Suslova, said that's because Putin has changed Russia.

"He brought stability and the opportunity for modernization and development of the country," she said.

Nashi's platform displays hostility toward Putin's critics -- including former Prime Minister Mikhail M. Kasyanov; former chess champion Garry Kasparov; and writer Eduard Limonov.

Members of the organization denounce opposition leaders as fascists, the Times reported, while promoting ethnic tolerance and opposition to skinheads. Nashi campaigns against drinking and smoking, takes a conservative stance on abortion and contraception.

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