December 3, 2007 / 5:11 PM / 12 years ago

Pro-Kremlin youth group vows to protect Putin win

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Thousands of young Kremlin supporters vowed on Monday to stop opposition forces overturning the election victory of President Vladimir Putin’s party, and said there would be no popular revolution in Russia.

At a rally in Moscow, leaders of the Nashi group that stages events to mobilise the youth vote in favour of Putin reminded supporters of what happened in Ukraine when a disputed election victory provoked a mass uprising in 2004.

“We must be ready to immediately mobilise against those who want to overthrow our victory,” said Nikita Borovikov, a Nashi leader and the event’s master of ceremonies.

The rally at the Kremlin walls inaugurated “four days of vigilance” during which Nashi groups across Russia will prepare for any backlash to Sunday’s landslide victory for United Russia, Borovikov said.

“Just because we won, don’t think we can rest ... we will not allow what happened in Ukraine in 2004 to happen here,” Borovikov said, referring to the street protests that gave Ukraine a pro-Western president, Viktor Yushchenko.

Yushchenko came to power after the “Orange Revolution” protests against poll fraud led to Ukraine’s Supreme Court overturning the election victory of Viktor Yanukovich, at the time a Kremlin ally.

After leading the crowd in a chant of “Putin! Russia!”, Nashi’s leader in the Oryol region, Marina Zademidkova, attacked figures from the dissident Other Russia coalition.

They included former chess champion Garry Kasparov, National Bolshevik leader Eduard Limonov, and ex-premier Mikhail Kasyanov, who has left the group.

“Kasparov, Kasyanov, Limonov, I’m ashamed that you live in Russia. You lost today, and you must admit it. If you don’t, you should leave. Get out. There’s no place for you here,” she said.

The demonstrators, wearing red and white capes embossed with a picture of Putin, responded with a roar.

Many wore scarves, jackets and pins bearing Putin’s face, the trademark that has led critics to brand the group a personality cult, blindly loyal to the president.

Sergei Chernov, 22, who led a contingent of 50 or 60 youths from the city of Ivanov in central Russia, said he would ignore allegations of election fraud until they were substantiated.

“We had our own observers at the polls in Ivanov, and from what we saw, the elections were open and fair,” he said.

Twenty two year-old Denis Panshin, from Ulyanovsk, said after some hesitation he had not voted for United Russia, but for Civil Force, a small party which did not win any seats.

“The party itself doesn’t matter,” Panshin said. “There are several parties that support Putin, and the only thing that matters is staying on Putin’s path.”

editing by Elizabeth Piper

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