WHATEVER IT TAKES: Nashi organizers on July 17 opened the Lake Seliger campgrounds to a busload of accredited journalists. A number of journalists failed to receive accreditation, including RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Maksim Yaroshevsky. Yaroshevsky describes how he and his colleagues made their own way to the camp:
The director of Nashi's press service initially told me that there were no places on the bus. Then she said that the list of accredited journalists had already been sent, and that it was too late to add any new names.
Ilya Barabanov of "Novoye vremya" and Mikhail Romanov of "Moskovsky komsomolets" were in the same situation. So we set out on our own that night, and by the morning of July 17 we were in the town of Ostashkov in Tver Oblast.
Nikolai Lyaskin, the head of the Smena (Change) opposition youth group, was with us. We asked the locals about the best way to get to the camp by water. It was difficult to get into the camp by land, because it was being heavily guarded. But no one had thought to guard the lake front.
We rented a boat for 70 rubles an hour, leaving a passport as a deposit, and crossed over to the shores of the Nashi camp. There were no guards in sight and it was relatively easy for us to wander off in different directions through the camp.
In the course of half an hour, I had already managed to speak to a dozen Nashi activists. Some of the other "illegal" journalists weren't so lucky.
Barabanov and Romanov were approached almost immediately by men in camouflage who insisted they leave the camp at once. The head of Nashi, Vasily Yakimenko, appeared and announced that the presence of unaccredited journalists on the premises of the camp was strictly forbidden.
My colleagues argued that this violated their rights under Russian media law, but Yakimenko was unconvinced, and within 10 minutes Barabanov, Romanov, and Lyaskin had all been thrown out of the camp.
No one appeared to have any regrets about the experience. "Yakimenko has refused to accredit me for a single event in the past two years," Romanov told me afterward. "We've simply been forced into conducting our own special operations."
Nashi is planning a second press tour on July 23, but it's not likely the accreditation process will be any less selective.