According to Russian newspaper Vzglyad, a number of activists of Russian pro-Putin youth movement "Nashi" were arrested today during an illegal demonstration outside the EU-commission's Moscow office. The demonstration, gathering some 700 people, was arranged in protest against Nashi-activists, partaking in last year's picket against the Estonian embassy in Moscow, being denied visas to the EU-Schengen area.
Russian police has obviously learnt from last year's events, and urged the demonstrators to dissolve the meeting, which also was obeyed after some further disorder and some arrests. Nashi had not applied for a demonstration permit for the event. Even though the Russian constitution safeguards the right to assembly, legislation has been approved in recent years demanding official approval of any demonstration gathering more than one (sic!) person. Detainees were subsequently released out of police custody.
That police actually intervened against Nashi demonstrators seems an exception to the rule of giving the movement great leeway in their public appearances and propaganda. In view of Nashi's increasing radicalisation, not least since the Estonian crisis, concern has been raised that Nashi rethorics and actions might get out of hand. Some sources even suggest that the Kremlin is fearing a loss of control over the movement, not least if the down-to-earth practicalities and bartering of Russian politics would demand a turn away from Nashi ideals.
However, it would be an exaggeration to claim the crackdown on Nashi as a sign of the Kremlin starting to turn its back on the movement, in view of the evolving political landscape in the runup to Russian presidential elections this March. Still, one might wonder if Nashi is not all the more becoming a used political force after having fulfilled its purpose as a Kremlin instrument for the 2007-2008 parliamentary and presidential elections.
Would the movement continue to complicate matters and exaggerate Kremlin policies, official support for Nashi might dwindle in favour of other movements, as e.g. Molodaya Gvardiya - the youth organisation of Putinist party Edinaya Rossiya. The need to organise and foster the youth ideologically however persists, so whatever form this will assume, the phenomenon of forming a nationally-minded "elite" is here to stay.