United Russia Duma Deputy Robert Shlegel has spun round the insulting catch phrase “party of scoundrels and thieves,” his party has been tagged with and transformed it into a pro-United Russia video.
The catchphrase was initially coined by anti-corruption-cum-far-right blogger Alexei Navalny, on radio station Finam FM and has stuck to the ruling party like glue since.
Navalny, 35, is a focal point for the opposition and Western observers and Kremlin critics have leapt on his words, but Shlegel has turned the mocking label to his own ends.
In a well crafted on-line video that has turned viral, which Shlegel, 27, paid for himself, he highlights the achievements that have been made under Untied Russia’s watch, mentioning the building of schools and roads that the oil boom has afforded.
“The party is full of honest and decent people,” he told RBC. “I would like people to know that it is a party of teachers, doctors, students and businessmen. They are welcome.”
United Russia is closely aligned with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The prime minister especially has fronted a raft of publicity stunts, but Shlegel is adamant that United Russia is about actions rather than words.
He describes it as a party of “Those who say little and do a lot….Whatever they call us.”
The video is intended for an online audience, Shlegel said. “I wanted as many people as possible to see it, because it is full of positive thoughts, despite the fact that initially it seems it is something about scoundrels and thieves,” he told.
“It is effective in making the [online] audience that slates us, sometimes completely unfairly, take a look and draw their own conclusions, and this is quite effective,” he said.
Navalny’s irrelevant slogan went out on air on Finam FM in February, followed by a court case for 1 million rubles from United Russia deputy Vladimir Sviridov. A court rejected Sviridov’s suit in October.
Schlegel is the first deputy chairman for the Duma Committee on Information Policy, after an earlier stint as press secretary for pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi. Of ethnic German parents, he was described by Benjamin Bidder and Matthias Schepp in Der Spiegel’s online international edition as “One of Russia's sharpest-tongued opponents of online freedom.”