MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin’s chief political strategist condemned Russian protesters on Friday, saying they wanted to turn demonstrations over a disputed election into a revolution like those that toppled leaders in the Arab world.
“There are those who want to turn the protests into a color revolution - that is for sure,” the president’s first deputy chief of staff, Vladislav Surkov, said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper.
Tens of thousands of people have said they will protest on Saturday in Moscow as part of the biggest wave of opposition rallies since Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rose to power 12 years ago.
Surkov said the protesters were acting as though they were taking cues from the works of U.S. academic Gene Sharp, whose books on revolution have been cited as a major influence on activists who led the campaign against Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.
Opposition leaders are calling for a new vote after accusations that the December 4 election, which gave Putin’s ruling party a slim majority in the State Duma lower house of parliament, was riddled with voting violations.
In the short interview, Surkov echoed opinions from Putin that some protesters were being instructed from abroad and that those attending were carefully following a preformulated script.
“(Protesters) are acting by the book, following ... new revolutionary methods,” said Surkov, referring to those who want to spark a revolution as ‘crooks’, a word often used by protesters to describe Putin’s United Russia party.
As in demonstrations in North Africa and the Middle East, the Russian protesters have relied on social media and Internet sites to organize their rallies and boost their numbers.
“For as much as it’s by the book, it’s boring. You want to tell these gentlemen to distance themselves from the instructions, from fantasies,” he said.
Surkov, who is a contentious figure for the opposition, said the Russian leadership had already started loosening its political control.
“(Changes) have already happened. The system has already changed ... We just have to put these changes into law,” he said, one day after President Dmitry Medvedev outlined proposals for overhauling the political system such as allowing regional governors to be elected rather than appointed by the Kremlin.
Surkov, who had been working as acting Kremlin chief of staff, was passed over for the permanent position on Thursday when Putin ally Sergei Ivanov was chosen for the job.
The move may be a sign that Putin is trying to distance himself from the figure who has drawn criticism from protesters.
The Kremlin is keen to defuse discontent before the protests planned across Russia on Saturday, following an earlier day of protests by tens of thousands of people on December 10.
Following Medvedev’s proposals to simplify the electoral system, a statement on the Kremlin website said legislation had been sent to parliament to enact them.
They include moves to reduce the number of signatures needed for a party to propose a presidential candidate and measures to simplify the process for political parties to compete in elections. The changes are to go into effect in January 1, 2013.
Surkov said the protests could bring “turbulence” to Russia, whose leaders cherish the stability they say Putin brought to the country after coming to power after the chaos that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
“The future is not a calm place, but it’s not worth it to be afraid,” Surkov said. “Turbulence, even strong turbulence is not a catastrophe, it is an (expression of) different kinds of stability.”
Reporting By Thomas Grove Editing by Maria Golovnina