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Nashi Sues 4 Foreign Newspapers For Libel

Nashi has filed libel lawsuits against four foreign newspapers, including Britain’s The Independent and France’s Le Monde, for reports comparing the pro-Kremlin youth group to Hitler youth, bandits and nationalists.

The reports were published in late September and early October in The Independent, Le Monde, France’s Le Journal Du Dimanche and Germany’s Frankfurter Rundshau and told about Nashi’s public campaign against journalist and human rights activist Alexander Podrabinek for his criticism of World War II veterans.

Nashi has filed the lawsuits in Moscow’s Savyolovsky District Court, which will determine a date for a preliminary hearing this week, the group’s lawyer, Sergei Zhorin, told The Moscow Times.

Nashi wants public retractions of the phrases that it deems offensive and damages of 500,000 rubles ($17,260) from each of the newspapers, Zhorin said.

The lawsuits concern “unscrupulous information” about Nashi, including comparisons of Nashi to “bandits” by Frankfurter Rundshau, he said.

“Banditism is a serious accusation because it is a grave crime,” Zhorin said.

The lawyer refused to elaborate on other phrases that the group deemed offensive, saying he didn’t want to repeat them. But he said Nashi first learned about the articles from extracts translated into Russian and published in Kommersant on Oct. 12.

Kommersant cited an Oct. 2 article from The Independent in which Nashi was called a “group, which critics have likened to the Hitler Youth,” and a Sept. 29 article from Le Journal Du Dimanche that described Nashi as a “nationalist” group.

Frankfurter Rundshau editor-in-chief Rouven Schellenberger said in a statement sent to The Moscow Times on Friday that “the fact that we assess today’s reality of Russia in a way that differs from that of the pro-Kremlin youth group is natural for crystal clear democracies.”

Shaun Walker, the Moscow correspondent for The Independent, and Marie Jego, the Moscow correspondent for Le Monde, joined the editor-in-chief of the web site of Le Journal Du Dimanche, Frederic Waringuez, in refusing to comment on the lawsuits Friday, saying that they were not familiar with its content.

Nashi is believed to be the brainchild of Kremlin first deputy chief of staff, Vladislav Surkov. The group reportedly began its campaign against Podrabinek, a Soviet-era dissident, after a meeting between Nashi leaders and Surkov.

Nashi activists have been staging near-daily demonstrations outside Podrabinek’s Moscow apartment building and have called for him to be expelled from the country after he suggested in an article that members of the Moscow Union of Veterans were former “camp guards” and “executioners” for pressuring a Moscow restaurant into changing its name from Antisovetskaya, or Anti-Soviet, to Sovetskaya.

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