Prime Minister Vladimir Putin condemned the involuntary enlistment of people to his All-Russia People's Front on Thursday after the group embarked on a chaotic membership drive that has swept musicians, architects, HIV and cancer patients and even an entire neighborhood into its fold.
Putin's remarks to a United Russia conference came after two more people from a professional union publicly denounced the group.
Putin said he opposed recruiting members "on assignment" or "on bureaucratic command" and would not tolerate the "artificial increase of large-scale participation," Interfax reported.
"This can only discredit the very idea" of the group, Putin said.
A day earlier, two members of the Russian Union of Composers, Lyudmila Korabelnikova and Mikhail Arkadyev, published open
"All in all, the mode of recruiting to its ranks (rather, attaching or ascribing) surpasses all we survived in Soviet times in regard to manipulation," Korabelnikova said in her letter published by
Arkadyev said he believed the group was started "exclusively" to profane the democratic process in Russia.
Boris Yurgenson, executive secretary of the Russian Union of Composers, defended the union's right to enroll Wednesday, saying that by law the members of a nongovernmental organization were not responsible for the NGO's actions and vice versa.
Yurgenson said, however, that the union might reconsider its decision because some union leaders and a number of its regional branches were "not very happy" with the activities of Putin's group.
Repeated calls to Yurgenson went unanswered Thursday.
Hundreds of public groups and associations have been swept into the front, with some of their members learning about it after the fact.
On Monday, the Russian Union of Architects became the first public group to snub Putin's movement, several days after one of its members published an open letter that said he had found the union listed on the group's
More than 100 union members joined his protest.
Another blogger this week published a
In Vladimir, residents of a whole street enrolled in Putin's movement, the regional United Russia's web site
In Bashkortostan, directors of several grade schools have voiced support for Putin's group, the regional United Russia's web site
Under Putin's initiative, the group was created in early May to consolidate public groups around United Russia and mobilize the public around United Russia ahead of State Duma elections in December.
United Russia has seen its popularity fall to new lows this month. A nationwide
The survey's margin of error was 3.4 percentage points.