Regional Elections Offer Russian Opposition No Escape from Internecine Conflict

As regional races heat up with less than a month to go before the September 8, 2013 election day, Russia's opposition parties are engaging in their usual, misguided tactics of attacking each other. This week, the manager of the RPR-PARNAS [en] campaign in Yaroslavl, Ilya Yashin, tweeted that his party came under attack from Vladimir Milov's Democratic Choice (DemVybor):

Milov's party filed a complaint with the Yaroslavl election committee that could lead to the removal of RPR-PARNAS from the race. Vova-the-tattler [i.e. Vladimir Milov] became a “spoiler candidate” for the [United Russia party].

Kirill Shulika, Milov's deputy and the curator of DemVybor's effort in Yaroslavl fired back [ru]:

Собственно, у меня есть информация, что РПР-ПАРНАС просто направлен в Ярославль спойлерствовать против нас.

Actually, I have information that RPR-PARNAS was sent to Yaroslavl to be a spoiler candidate against us.

Shulika later explained that DemVybor did indeed file a complaint against RPR-PARNAS [ru], for unauthorized use of the likeness of the imprisoned Yaroslavl mayor Evgeny Urlashov [Global Voices Report] in their campaign materials. Russian regulations require political campaigns to obtain authorization from persons whose images and quotes are used in campaign literature. Apparently, RPR-PARNAS did not get such permission from Urlashov, who is still under arrest. This is especially ironic, said Shulika [ru], considering that RPR-PARNAS never supported Urlashov when he was mayor because of his former association with the United Russia party. Shulika also made it clear [ru] that DemVybor's goal was not to take PARNAS out of competition through a court decision, but rather simply to get them to retract their exploitative use of Urlashov's name.

Pro-Kremlin journalist Pavel Danilin explained [ru] Urlashov's support for DemVybor (a small party with little chance of doing well in the elections):

Грешневиков и Воробьев растаскивают электорат Урлашова, при этом совершенно ничего не давая сидящему мэру, а только пользуя его. Ровно также поступает и Немцов, паразитируя на Урлашове. Шулика же и Милов хотя бы передачки ему носят […]

[Just Russia's] Greshnevikov and [the Communist's] Vorobyev are dismantling Urlashov's electorate, using him, but at the same time not giving anything back. [RPR-PARNAS's Vladimir] Nemtsov is also exploiting Urlashov. At the same time, Shulika and Milov at least send him care packages [ru] […]

Meanwhile, some have questioned DemVybor's status as a “genuine” opposition member for other reasons. Shortly before the conflict with PARNAS, Timofey Sheviakov, a spin-doctor and internet troll affiliated with the Kremlin, announced [ru] on his Facebook that DemVybor had hired him to manage their Yaroslavl campaign. He later elaborated [ru]:

нет, я не вступил в ДемВыбор. и не собираюсь вступать. […] партия, чья программа мне близка, сделала предложение и я согласился, потому что кампания в Ярославле реально очень интересная, с одной стороны. с другой, я уже изрядно занимаюсь региональными выборами […] да, я работаю за деньги. да, я веду еще ряд кампаний, помимо Ярославля.

no, I haven't joined DemVybor. and I'm not planning to. […] a party, whose program appeals to me, made me an offer and I accepted, because on the one hand the Yaroslavl campaign is very interesting. on the other hand, I am already very involved with regional elections […] yes, I work for money. yes, I am managing several other campaigns, besides Yaroslavl.

A reader of Sheviakov's blog reacted [ru], somewhat sarcastically:

тихо паникую… такой понятный черно-белый мир в одну секунду начинает становиться непонятным

I'm quietly panicking… such a simple black-and-white world is suddenly beginning to seem complicated

Sheviakov, a.k.a. “tarlith”, is a contentious figure on the RuNet. He has been associated with such disparate groups as the Red Blitzkrieg (of the tomato terrorism [Global Voices Report] fame), Gleb Pavlovsky's Foundation for Effective Politics [en], and a group of internet trolls led by the notorious hacker Hell [Global Voices Report]. Sheviakov also invented the popular meme “sad shit,” [ru] was once arrested for owning a hand-gun [ru], and had charges pressed against him [ru] by a Duma deputy for online insults (Sheviakov called him a “star-carrying asshole” and “Baltic scum”).

The Ricky Gervais Show, Yaroslavl edtition. (from left to right, Timofey Sheviakin as Steven Merchant, Kirill Shulika as Ricky Gervais, and Ilya Yashin as the round-headed buffoon Karl Pilkington). Image remixed by author using YouTube screenshot.

The Ricky Gervais Show, Yaroslavl edition. (From left to right: Timofey Sheviakin as Steven Merchant, Kirill Shulika as Ricky Gervais, and Ilya Yashin as Karl Pilkington). Image remixed by author using YouTube screenshot.

Needless to say, some people were incensed, rising to what Shulika called [ru] “hysterics.” The journalist Yelena Tokareva commented [ru] on Shulika's LiveJournal, saying:

Тимофей Шевяков – это сурковская гнида. Пидарас. Какой, к е-моей матери демвыбор? Турьма – его дом.

Timofey Sheviakov is a Surkovian louse. A f*ggot. What motherf*cking DemVybor? He should be in prison.

Andrey Malgin, who has been hacked by Hell several times, also commented [ru], bringing up Sheviakov's dubious past with nationalism, as well as his long-time anti-opposition credentials:

Не может быть. Не верю. Шевяков? Начинал в Конгрессе русских общин, где боролся с сионистами, потом состоял в сталинистском “Красном блицкриге”, затем несколько лет работал в ФЭПе у Павловского по линии борьбы с оранжизмом

It can't be. I don't believe it. Sheviakov? He started in the Congress of Russian Communities, where he fought Zionists, then he was in the stalinist Red Blitzkrieg, then for several years he worked at Pavlovsky's FEP fighting the [orange revolutionaries]

When a blogger, Anton Berezutskiy, asked Vladimir Milov whether he is disturbed by Shevyakin's reputation, Milov responded [ru], saying that he wasn't:

Тимофей Шевяков не член нашей партии, и выполняет для нас на финансовой основе те задачи, которые мы ему ставим. Выполняет очень хорошо. Тот факт, что мы привлекли технолога, связанного с противоположной политической группировкой – доказательство того, что в подборе кадров мы руководствуемся принципами профессионализма, а не клановости и политическими пристрастиями.

Timofey Sheviakov is not a party member, he performs the tasks we set before him in return for financial remuneration. He performs them very well. The fact that we have attracted a political PR expert that has ties with a rival political group, is proof that in picking our staff we are guided by principles of professionalism, not cronyism and political preference.

Another journalist, Dmitriy Bavyrin, also thought [ru] that DemVybor's new hire was a positive development, but for slightly different reasons:

если бы [Шевяков] возглавил штаб Навального, было бы еще лучше. […] Это стало бы историческим, эпохальным событием. […] Потому что в этот день рашн твиттер утонул бы в говне. И хипстерпиздобратия в последний раз сказала бы “буль”.

if [Sheviakov] became head of Navalny's campaign staff, it would be even better. […] It would be a historic, epochal event. […] Because on that day Russian twitter would drown in a pile of sh*t. And the f*cking hipster brotherhood would have its last “gurgle.”

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