They claim NTV docu alleges they were paid to protest

MOSCOW — Russia’s pro-Kremlin TV channel NTV is being sued by anti-Vladimir Putin activists for libel after it broadcast a documentary claiming demonstrators were paid to attend anti-government protests.

NTV’s 36-minute documentary “Anatomy of Protest” aired last Thursday and was repeated late Sunday, —the same day that some 100 people were arrested outside Moscow’s Ostankino TV studio for attending an unsanctioned protest over the show.

Opposition group Democratic Choice filed two lawsuits accusing the channel of breaching copyright and libel laws, its deputy head, Igor Drandin, wrote on his Twitter feed on Tuesday.

The group said NTV had used video shot by activitists at a pro-government rally following Putin’s re-election March 4 without permission or crediting the author.

Democratic choice is claiming $4,100 in damages and an on-air retraction.

Separately Boris Nadezhdin, the former chairman of a Kremlin-approved opposition party, Right Cause, also launched a libel case against NTV.

NTV, owned by Kremlin-controlled natural gas monopoly Gazprom, claimed Sunday that the documentary had been repeated by popular demand. It has yet to comment on the law suits.

Putin won a third term as president with 63% of the votes cast in an election marred by evidence of widespread fraud.

The docu — aired by a station that was formerly owned by now exiled Russian oligarch billionare Boris Berezovsky, when it was a flag-carrier for independent journalism — has reignited opposition passion just two weeks after Putin’s election.

Russia’s anti-government protest movement, which sparked several mass street demonstrations in Moscow numbering hundreds of thousands between parliamentary elections in December and the presidential poll this week, has faltered since March 4.

Recent protests, sanctioned and unsanctioned, have ended in hundreds of arrests and increasing signs that Putin, who will be inaugurated president May 7, will not tolerate dissent.

But there are signs that protestors are in it for the long term and are switching tactics. In St. Petersburg, six opposition Yabloko party youth activists used humor Monday to get their point across.

Gathering outside the local NTV headquarters, they ate noodles — a reference to the expression “to hang noodles on someone’s ears,” a Russian term meaning to poke fun at someone.

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