Khimki: With a packed programme
from environment lectures to self defence classes, Russia`s
beleaguered opposition is staging its first camp to rival the
annual summer get-together of Vladimir Putin`s supporters.
The four-day camp -- set up as an alternative to the
massive Seliger camp attended by thousands of pro-Kremlin
youth group members for the last years -- opened yesterday in
the Khimki forest outside Moscow.
An eclectic mix of opposition activists and
environmentalists pitched tents, led by charismatic campaigner
Yevgenia Chirikova who has turned a fight against roadbuilding
through the Khimki forest into a high-profile cause.
The atmosphere at AntiSeliger was in complete contrast
to the pro-authorities event at Lake Seliger in the
northwestern Tver region, which has been attended in the past
by Prime Minister Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev.
The Yabloko liberal party doled out porridge from a
field kitchen, while the speakers at the opening included the
shaven-headed leader of the radical Left Front, Sergei
Udaltsov, and the head of WWF Russia, Igor Chestin.
The camp came as Russia prepares for parliamentary
elections in December and crucial presidential elections in
2012, and activists from Russia`s fragmented opposition said
they hoped it would build bridges.
"We understand very well that when we act alone,
piecemeal, we achieve far less results, and it is much simpler
for the authorities to handle us," said Udaltsov.
"There are all sorts of groups here, from ecologists
to political activists and right activists, whoever. But we
all feel that the current political elite is not in power
legitimately," activist Roman Dobrokhotov said to a news agency.
Riot police manned the entrance to the forest with
several buses and an armed vehicle, but allowed arriving
activists and journalists to pass freely.
Organiser Chirikova expressed her relief at the
Wearing a pin-tucked white top and jeans, Chirikova
stood on an improvised stage of plants to list the rules of
the camp: tolerance to different political views -- and no