The Russian blogosphere and opposition media are offering a heated response to a televised report accusing the country's opposition of dirty tricks in the protest season ahead of this month's presidential vote.
The report, "Anatomy of a Protest
," was aired on March 15 on the government-controlled channel NTV.
The program begins by playing down the number of people participating in the season's opposition rallies -- estimated by some to be the largest crowds since the collapse of the Soviet Union -- and poses a series of caustic questions about the anti-Kremlin activists and their methods.
"How does the opposition prepare its provocations? What do they mean by the phrase 'ritual sacrifice'? Who benefits? And what are people from the U.S. Embassy doing at the protests?" the report asks.
The NTV report goes on to accuse the opposition of tactics that journalists and activists say are more commonly associated with supporters of the regime.
Among them: paying protesters to bulk up crowd sizes, goading the police in hopes of sparking violence, and even arranging a so-called "ritual sacrifice" of an opposition leader as a provocation.
The report goes on to indirectly suggest that such activities were made possible through funding by the United States and other Western countries, a common refrain in Kremlin assessments of antigovernment activism.
Journalists and bloggers were quick to pounce on the NTV report, saying it was deliberately misleading and replete with false information.
One blogger, Drugoi, wrote on the blogging platform LiveJournal that many of the activities ascribed to the opposition in the NTV report -- for example, the payment of rent-a-crowd activists gathered at the Sokolniki subway stop ahead of protests on February 26 -- had in fact already been documented in the media as the work of pro-regime organizers.
The backlash was quickly registered on Twitter as well, with hashtags like #NTVlzhyot, or "NTV lies" rapidly becoming one of the top trending topics worldwide.
The opposition has called for a series of weekend demonstrations to protest the NTV video.