Source AP ©

Pro-Kremlin youth movement accuses USA of inciting coup in Russia

A pro-Kremlin youth movement said it will distribute fliers accusing the United States of planning to incite "thieves and traitors" to rebel across Russia - a move that reflects an increasing strain in Moscow's relations with Washington.

Organizers for the group, called Nashi, said Sunday it is mobilizing against an alleged threat of a Western-inspired revolt following Sunday's parliamentary victory by President Vladimir Putin's party.

United Russia won a solid victory in the election, cast as a referendum on whether Putin should remain Russia's de facto leader after he leaves the presidency in May.

The leaflets, copies of which appeared on several Web sites before the vote, seem aimed at rallying Nashi activists in case anti-government protests break out in the wake of the elections, which opposition leaders charge were marked by state-sponsored coercion and intimidation on behalf of United Russia.

Kristina Potupchik, a spokeswoman for Nashi, which means "Ours," said the group will start distributing the leaflets Monday.

One side of the leaflet praises Putin's victory in the election, while the other accuses the U.S. of enlisting critics of Putin to try to overturn the results of the vote. A cartoon depicts Uncle Sam sitting on sacks of money with names of Russian opposition leaders written on them.

"They wanted traitors and thieves to win," the text says. "Between Dec. 3 and 6, before the official announcement of the election's result, (the traitors) will try to seize squares and buildings, provoke disorder, take our victory from us."

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman called the claim "ridiculous."

The Nashi move follows Putin's allegations that Washington sought to discredit the vote by pushing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe not to send observers to monitor the election - the claim denied by both Washington and the OSCE. Putin also denounced Russia's liberal opposition as "foreign-fed jackals."

Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, on Sunday criticized the election, saying it was marked by state interference on behalf of United Russia and intimidation of the opposition.

A half-dozen pro-Putin youth groups have sprung up in recent years, drawing thousands of members. Many have been organized and funded by the Kremlin and its business allies, concerned about the role that youth groups played in mass demonstrations in Ukraine and Georgia that helped bring pro-Western governments to power.

Many pro-Kremlin youth groups claim to oppose political extremism, but some of them preach nationalist, anti-democratic and xenophobic sentiments.

Opposition leaders, including former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, have repeatedly been harassed by pro-Kremlin youth in the run-up to Sunday's vote, with activists stalking leaders, disrupting press conferences and playing recordings of loud, maniacal laughter at protests. Kasparov said one pro-Kremlin youth handcuffed himself to Kasparov's car three times.

Boris Nemtsov, a leader of the liberal Union of Right Forces party, said recently that a 19-year-old Nashi activist tried to put a butterfly net with a sign saying "political insect" on his head, while others have pelted him with condoms. Nemtsov told The Associated Press that he punched the 19-year-old with the net.

In the run-up to Sunday's election, Nashi created its own network of election monitors, Nashi Vybory. Pyotr Korolev, deputy head of the group, said it dispatched 20,000 activists to conduct exit polls throughout the country. This effort, he said, helped draw attention to the election and increase turnout.

"But we do it by conducting an unbiased sociological survey," Korolev said.

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