Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov accuses Kremlin of illegally bugging phone
www.telegraph.co.uk, 20th December 2011 16:49
By Andrew Osborn in Moscow
Boris Nemtsov, one of Russia's main opposition leaders has accused Kremlin agents of illegally bugging his phone after a newspaper released embarrassing recordings of his private phone calls.
The material was potentially damaging for Mr Nemtsov, one of the principal organisers of a recent spate of anti-Kremlin protests, as he can be heard insulting his fellow opposition leaders in obscene terms and belittling his own supporters as "internet hamsters" and "scared penguins."
A deputy prime minister in the 1990s and a founder of the opposition Solidarity movement, Mr Nemtsov claimed the release of the recordings was a cynical Kremlin attempt to sabotage a big opposition protest planned for Christmas Eve by triggering internal squabbling among its organisers.
"Parts of these conversations are really genuine," he wrote in his blog.
"Others are spliced together material and others are false. The aim of this provocation is obvious: to ruin the protest planned for December 24." Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, and Vladislav Surkov, the acting head of the presidential administration, had orchestrated the KGB-style sting, he alleged.
"Putin and Surkov have decided to sow discord in the ranks of the opposition using this clumsy and criminal method," he wrote. "They are impudently and unforgivably violating my constitutional right and the right of my interlocutors to confidential communications and telephone conversations."
Mr Nemtsov conceded he was sorry however if the expletive-ridden insults he had apparently hurled at fellow opposition leaders as well as journalists and a prominent human rights activist had offended anyone, admitting he should have kept a lid on his emotions.
He can be heard calling a prominent activist "just a bitch or else an idiot," says a female journalist is "uglier than a nuclear war," and derides anti-Kremlin protesters as "office plankton."
But Mr Nemtsov pleaded for the targets of his abuse to remain united in their demand for a rerun of an allegedly rigged parliamentary election earlier this month that saw support for Mr Putin's ruling United Russia party fall by fifteen per cent.
"Now it is important as never before that we stand together," he said.
The newspaper that released the recordings is part-owned by a Putin ally and refused to say where it had got them, insisting their publication was driven purely by commercial motives. Mr Putin plans to return to the presidency after a March 4 election for a controversial third time but is facing rising social discontent at his party's monopoly on power.