The Kremlin learns to tweet

As Russia scrambles to modernize and reform in the face of an increasingly disenchanted public, some politicians are calling for Twitter accounts to bridge the divide.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

 Russia’s embattled ruling party is desperately searching for ways to regain the public trust it lost amid the recent street protests, the largest since the early 1990s.

The latest plan? Twitter.

As United Russia scrambles to modernize and reform in the face of an increasingly disenchanted public, one party official has called for members to become more connected with those they govern. Andrei Ilnitsky, deputy head of United Russia’s central executive committee, even proposed an evaluation system to track members’ progress.

“You have a Twitter [account]? You get a plus,” he recently told the RBK business daily. “If not? Sorry, nothing personal – zero.”

As Russia lurches toward the March 4 presidential elections, which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win, Russia’s opposition forces continue to rally against Mr. Putin and United Russia itself. Much of the opposition’s communication takes place on social networks such as Live Journal and Twitter, which are now the virtual crossroads for everything from anti-establish­ment jokes to serious political discussion.

And although a number of Russian politicians – including President Dmitry Medvedev – are now active on Twitter, those looking to Putin as an example may be disappointed: His disdain for the Internet is widely recognized, and the ex-KGB spy even once famously stated that it is “50 percent pornography.”

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