Monday, November 29, 1999

Russian police seize pamphlets criticising Putin

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Police in Vladimir Putin's hometown seized pamphlets criticising the prime minister on the eve of a high-profile business forum showcasing Russia, opposition leaders said on Wednesday.St. Petersburg police confiscated 100,000 copies of a new report on Putin's decade in power co-authored by Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, said Olga Kurnosova, head of the local branch of the opposition United Civil Front.Kurnosova and Nemtsov, a prominent politician and a vocal Putin critic, contended police were trying to keep the 45-page report from the public and visitors at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, which starts on Thursday."The police had the task of preventing the distribution of the report during the forum among its participants and citizens," Kurnosova told Reuters. St. Petersburg police declined to comment.Police held the driver of the vehicle that was delivering the pamphlets for several hours, Kurnosova said.She said police told her they had sent the pamphlet to be checked for evidence of extremism -- a tactic opposition politicians say Russian authorities sometimes use to stifle criticism -- and that the check would take two or three days.The annual forum, which draws world business leaders and will be attended by Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev, ends on Friday.Nemtsov, also a longtime former national lawmaker and regional governor, has co-written several reports highlighting corruption and other problems that he contends have gotten worse since Putin was elected president in 2000.The conclusion of the new report -- titled "Putin. Results. 10 Years." -- says, among other things, that during Putin's decade in power, "corruption reached a catastrophic scale" and the gap between rich and poor has widened.(Reporting by Denis Pinchuk; writing by Steve Gutterman; editing by Noah Barkin)

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