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Pro-Kremlin organization activist arrested in Tbilisi

By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, April 17
Russian citizen Alexander Kuznetsov was arrested by Georgian police in Tbilisi on April 16. The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs has released a video in which the detained states that he is an activist of the pro-Kremlin Russian youth movement Nashi.

Being questioned, Kuznetsov said that he entered Georgia to prepare the necessary documentation for a Nashi vehicle column which is due to travel from Moscow to Tbilisi via Tskhinvali. The detainee said he was also intending to “prepare a provocation” in which “a group of armed people following the column would start shooting at the activists and blame it on Georgian law enforcers.”

The Internal Ministry underlines that Kuznetsov had already visited Georgia as an observer of the 2008 elections and worked as a journalist at the NATO Bucharest Summit in April 2008. Asked what will happen to Kuznetsov now, a Ministry spokesperson said that “The Russian activist is prepared to be handed over to the Embassy of Switzerland, which now represents the interests of the Russian Federation in Georgia.”

The Nashi movement was founded in 2005-2006 as a “reply” to the active role youth organizations played in the “coloured revolutions” in Georgia and, especially, Ukraine. The Russian media states that the organization was formed on the initiative of the Administration of the Russian President with the personal participation of Vladimir Putin. Officials of Russia’s governing party have many times expressed their support for the movement and participated in events organized by it. However some opposition politicians and media outlets criticize the organization, often comparing it to ultra-nationalist organizations in other countries. Some critics of Kremlin policy have even referred to the Nashi movement as the "Putin Youth," a pejorative reference to the Hitler Youth movement of the Third Reich. Others call them "nashisty," which rhymes with the Russian word for fascist, "fashisty," wrote the Weekly Standard in 2007.

Earlier this month Nashi announced its support for the opposition manifestations in Georgia and stated that its members would travel the Moscow-Tskhinvali-Tbilisi route to “show the solidarity and equality of the Russian, Ossetian and Georgian people.” Nashi accused Georgian President Saakashvili of “aggression, provocations and the genocide of the Ossetian population.”

According to the South Ossetian separatist ‘Press Committee’ Nashi activists arrived in Tskhinvali, the capital breakaway South Ossetia on April 15 and held a demonstration in support of South Ossetia. They said their next stop would be Tbilisi.

Shota Utiashvili, spokesperson for Georgian Internal Ministry, stated that the Ministry will not allow Russian political activists to enter Georgia. “The checkpoints at the administrative border of South Ossetia are illegal. We will not let anyone enter Georgian-controlled territory from that side,” said Utiashvili, speaking to The Messenger on April 16.

The Messenger was unable to obtain a comment from the Moscow office of Nashi. Its representatives stated that there was “no one in the office” and advised us to “call back tomorrow.”