New Russian TV pressure on opposition forces

MAX SEDDON, Associated Press

MOSCOW -- In the latest sign of rising pressure on the opposition, a Kremlin-friendly TV channel claimed on Friday that Russian opposition leaders are working with a disgraced banker to overthrow the government.

"Anatomy of a Protest 2," a documentary on NTV that aired Friday, showed what it said was hidden camera footage suggesting Left Front leader Sergey Udaltsov met with a representative of former Bank of Moscow owner Andrei Borodin to discuss raising $200 million for protests against President Vladimir Putin.

The documentary, whose makers were not credited, alleged the money was to pay hundreds of thousands of leftists and far-right nationalists to march on the Kremlin wearing identical clothes emblazoned with swastikas.

An anonymous narrator said that "the plan of action has already been developed, its planners live abroad, and Udaltsov, according to our information, is just one of its executors."

Udaltsov, a die-hard communist who wore a Joseph Stalin T-shirt to his wedding and whose party program calls for nationalizing Russian banks, described the documentary as "filth and lies" on his Twitter account.

Borodin fled to London last year to avoid embezzlement charges stemming from Bank of Moscow's $14 billion bailout after state-run VTB's takeover. British authorities denied him and his deputy political asylum in May.

Pro-Kremlin press has been keen to blame unprecedented protest sentiment against Putin since last winter on foreign forces. The first "Anatomy of a Protest" documentary claimed in March that opposition activists were enticed to protest by money and cookies supplied by the U.S.

Another state-run TV channel insisted last month that members of the punk band Pussy Riot had been paid to perform in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral by Boris Berezovsky, a former oligarch and arch enemy of Putin now exiled in London. Both the band and Berezovsky dismiss the claims.