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Russia To Build Youth Camp Near Sochi

MOSCOW -- The Russian government has ordered the construction of a youth camp in the bordering Stavropol region, in an effort to improve the image of the volatile North Caucasus ahead of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Called Caucasian House, the camp is to be built in the town of Kislovodsk. It is being organized by the North Caucasus Federal District (of which Stavropol Krai does not belong) and Russia's Youth Affairs Agency.

The Youth Affairs Agency is headed by Vasily Yakemenko, the creator of the pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi.

One youth camp has already been built, in Seliger, a lake region outside of Tver, in a joint project by Nashi and the State Committee for Youth.

North Caucasus Federal District official Mikhail Markelov said Nashi is not involved in the establishment of the Kislovodsk camp. "We are trying to keep the camp free of such hard-line political components," Markelov told the Russian newspaper "Vedomosti."

But political scientist Vladimir Pribylovsky said Nashi will definitely be involved in the project.

"Membership in all these organizations is completely crisscrossed," Pribylovsky told RFE/RL. "Nothing stops a member of Nashi from joining United Russia's Young Guard. They are different sides of the same coin."

Pribylovsky said he also suspects Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is involved in setting up the new camp.

"Medvedev has no use for Nashi -- [he] is not interested in any of these party-centric projects," Pribylovsky said. "But if it has Putin's stamp of approval, Medvedev can't do a thing."

In mid-May, Medvedev met with the North Caucasus Federal District head Aleksandr Khloponin and several human rights organizations active in the North Caucasus.

Zaur Gaziev, a Daghestan-based member of the human rights group Memorial, told RFE/RL he hoped the meeting would have led to talks about the current problems in the North Caucasus. Instead, he said Medvedev got a summer camp and "outdated advice."

"Yeah, you can build a summer camp, you can even stage a big carnival like in Rio de Janeiro," Gaziev said. "But these things don't solve the problems going on in the Caucasus and Daghestan. Moscow is psychologically not ready to take on those problems."

He said the youth camp will not help the situation in the North Caucasus. "I mean, what do you think -- can antacids cure a blocked artery? It's sheer stupidity."

A government website says the youth camp will cost 50 million rubles ($1.6 million) to build.