Phone hacking Russian style: Opposition under fire

Tue Dec 20, 2011 11:32am EST
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By Guy Faulconbridge and Douglas Busvine

MOSCOW (Reuters) - In a sign Vladimir Putin's allies may be getting serious about tackling the biggest protests of his 12-year rule, a loyal media outlet has published telephone calls of an opposition leader laced with profanities denigrating colleagues and followers.

True to Russia's history of KGB-style stings, the recordings appear aimed at sowing discord within the fragmented opposition movement which this month united behind mass protests against Putin following a disputed parliamentary election.

The Internet site, which local media says is partly owned by Putin ally Yuri Kovalchuk, published 36 recordings of conversations between opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and other members of the protest movement.

"She is a fucker but what the hell can I do about it? She doesn't fucking listen," one recording purports to show Nemtsov saying of Yevgeniya Chirikova, a 35-year-old opposition campaigner who also took part in the mass protests.

"You are a fucking great Russian writer for fuck's sake. Can you call that Chirikova and tell that bitch that you are insulting Nemtsov by accusing him of working for money. That bloody beast," Nemtsov said.

In other comments, Nemtsov derided supporters he was trying to muster for a rally as "office plankton" who had never seen a riot policeman in their lives.

Nemtsov, a former cabinet minister who was once tipped as possible Kremlin leader during the rule of Boris Yeltsin, said the recordings had been heavily edited and partly falsified in an attempt by Putin's supporters to splinter the opposition.

"Parts of the recordings are genuine, part are heavily edited and parts are simply fake and falsified," Nemtsov told Reuters by telephone.   Continued...

<p>Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov gestures during a television interview in Moscow December 20, 2011. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor</p>