MOSCOW, August 17 (RIA Novosti)
Mock Mikhail Prokhorov campaign billboards pop up in Moscow
Mock campaign posters went up in the center of Moscow Tuesday casting doubt on Right Cause leader Mikhail Prokhorov’s integrity and decency.
Analysts believe the fake posters are better designed than the originals, and say his PR team got the tone of their campaign wrong. Just like on the original posters, the fake ones feature the image of Russia’s third-richest man, Mikhail Prokhorov, who was recently elected to head the pro-liberal Right Cause party. The only difference is the slogan: the unknown artist behind the mock billboards took the liberty of extending the short quotation taken from the 2000 blockbuster Brother-2 that was used on the original posters, “Strength is truth” to a full paragraph:
“Now tell me, Prokhorov, what is strength? Is it really in money? You’ve got a lot of money. And so what? I happen to think that strength is in truth, and he who has truth on his side is stronger. So you cheated someone and got a bunch of money. So what — did you become stronger? No, you didn’t. That’s because the truth isn’t on your side. Now the person you cheated — he has truth on his side, which means he’s the stronger one,” effectively reversing the message by reminding struggling Russians that Prokhorov is worth over twenty billion dollars. An online group, Monolog.tv, owned up to the stunt.
A Right Cause official wanted to remove the offending posters personally, but they had already been taken down by the authorities as “unauthorized advertizing.” This is not the first time Monolog.tv’s unconventional art has been removed from Moscow’s streets. In May, they put up fake fashion industry ads, featuring Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin as bare-legged male models sporting white shorts and holding tennis rackets, bearing the logo of the TsUM department store.
The police has not given any clue as to how close they ever got to tracking the artist down.
Political analyst Yevgeny Minchenko said the original slogan choice was unwise, since it referred to an oligarch, because 99 out of 100 Russians would think his wealth is unlikely to have come from legitimate sources. “If his team still insists on persevering with this slogan, they should be fired. It sounds like they are not trying to promote the party but to kill and bury right-wing liberalism in Russia,” he said.
Campaign technologist Konstantin Kalachev summarized the ongoing professional discussion saying that Prokhorov’s billboards “do not touch any chords” and are “lousy work.” “Respected PR specialists are drafting their own brand books for Right Cause, just to show them what a professional approach looks like,” he said adding that those behind the mock ads had obviously beaten everyone else to it. Only they sent Prokhorov’s popularity down, not up.
The Right Cause press office declined to comment. Several party sources referred to the mock ads as “backyard production” in informal conversations and were puzzled as to who could be behind them.
Moscow to sell off hotels and movie theaters
The Moscow city property department has added another 15 companies to its privatization plan for 2011-2013.
Hotel Company, conceived as a joint venture between the city authorities and American billionaire Ronald Lauder’s Russia Real Estate Fund is one entity that falls under the plan. The deal did not go through after the new Moscow administration decided against transferring prestigious Moscow hotels over to the company. Without them – Lauder lost interest.
Hotel Company comprises twelve 2* and 3* hotels and two 4* hotels – the Renaissance and the Savoy. The city has a controlling stake in 12 of them. The evaluation of the company has not yet been completed, said Natalia Sergunina, head of the city’s property department.
That value can be estimated based on the fact that 1 sq m in its hotels is worth $3,000 on average, says Alexei Mogila, retail real estate head at Penny Lane Realty. It could be bought by a big non-core investor that will resell the hotels separately, or by a big hotel operator like Hilton, he says. It is impossible to find a hotel company willing to invest in 2*-3* and 4* hotels at the same time, argues Sergei Kolesnikov, CEO of GOST Hotel Management. He says only a big businessman like Suleiman Kerimov would be in a position to buy it. A spokesperson for Kerimov’s Nafta Moskva investment group declined to comment.
Another company that has made it to the privatization list is the United Directorate for Cinema Property Management. It owns 39 movie theaters in Moscow, most of which are leased to big chains – Karo Film, Formula Kino and Almaz Cinema. Almost all are multiplexes, many with 3D and IMAX.
How much might these movie theatres sell for? Cinema Park chain (owned by Prof-Media) recently bought a chain with 7 multiplexes in Moscow and St Petersburg and a turnover of $100 million in a deal analysts estimated at $150 million.
Prof-Media spokesperson Yekaterina Osadchaya said that her company might be interested in these Moscow theaters, but that they needed more information.
Another addition to the privatization list is the city’s 30% stake in the hotel Hilton Leningradskaya. The main owner, Mikhail Shishkhanov’s Mospromstroy, has the preemptive right, Sergunina said. If he does not agree to the (yet to be determined) price, it will be offered to other buyers. A member of Mospromstroy’s supervisory board told Vedomosti that his company would buy the stake. Alexei Mogila at Penny Lane Realty estimated the hotel as being worth up to $3,500 per sq m, meaning that the city may raise about $90 million for its 25,744 sq m.
The city expects to earn 200 billion rubles from privatization in 2011-2012, Russian Deputy Economic Development Minister Andrei Sharonov said earlier. It has already received about 150 billion rubles from the sale of the Bank of Moscow, Capital Insurance Company and Sibir Energy and is now getting ready to sell stakes in 30 other companies.
United Russia tackles drinking and drugs
The United Russia party seems to have decided on its election campaign slogans. As RBC Daily learned, the key issues it will use to win over voters will be drinking and drugs. Party members are prepared to liken drug dealers to serial killers and call for drunk drivers to be punished in proportion to the amount of alcohol they have consumed. Party leader Boris Gryzlov is leading the campaign.
Drinking and drug addiction may become the main electoral issue for United Russia, a high-ranking party official told RBC Daily. Boris Gryzlov, State Duma speaker and chairman of the party’s supreme council, will personally oversee it. The party has set up a special working group to fight the drug threat.
“In the past five years, the number of drug addicts in Russia has increased 11-fold.” said Vladimir Potsyapun, who heads the working group. “Various estimates put their number at over five million. For any state, this statistic amounts to a gene pool catastrophe,” he added.
“Last year,” he continued, “drugs killed over 100,000 people. This is more than the death toll from fires and air crashes. The number of teenage drug users has grown 42-fold, while the age at which minors first try drugs has fallen to just 11 years.”
He said Gryzlov has already proposed equating drug dealers and their accomplices with serial killers.
“One of the ideas being discussed by the party is a new punishment for drug traders: lifelong hard labor,” Andrei Isayev, first deputy secretary from United Russia’s general council presidium, told RBC Daily.
Mandatory treatment may replace criminal prosecution. “If a drug user undergoes successful treatment within a certain timeframe, he or she will be free to go,” Potsyapun explained.
Fighting drinking and alcoholism will be the second point in their manifesto. “Drinking is one of the five main problems Russia faces: next to the roads, utilities bills and housing,” said Young Guard leader Timur Prokopenko. “University graduates and people who live in major cities and villages are the main victims of the disease, according to our polls,” he said.
Remembering Mikhail Gorbachev’s unsuccessful attempt, United Russia wants to address the issue in a considered fashion. “In this country, we have seen a vigorous campaign against drinkers lead to a growth in substance abuse,” noted one high-placed United Russia official. “We have already decided to designate beer as a strong alcoholic beverage and will continue moving forward,” he said.
Part of the drinking issue is the legal amount that can be drunk by a motorist behind the wheel. “All individuals detained for drunk driving for a second time, must be stripped of their driving rights for five to ten, not three, years,” argues Vyacheslav Lysakov, head of the Motorists of Russia movement.
“Society is beginning to set its sights on healthy living and if the party takes the right approach, it will win votes,” says Alexei Grazhdankin, deputy head of the Levada Center polling agency.
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