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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prosecutors Probe Rodina Ad

Rodina.ruScenes from Rodina's "Let's clear the city of garbage" TV campaign ad.
Moscow city prosecutors on Wednesday opened an investigation into a television campaign commercial by the nationalist Rodina party that is being criticized as inciting ethnic hatred.

The ad, which has run all week on TV Center television, begins with a shot of four dark-skinned men seated on a courtyard bench, munching on watermelon slices and tossing the rinds on the ground. Bright Caucasus music plays in the background. A young blond woman dressed in red walks by pushing a baby stroller, and a ground-level shot shows the stroller's wheels rolling over three watermelon rinds. "There goes the neighborhood," one man mutters as he watches the mother and her child pass.

The music abruptly turns menacing as the camera pans up from the feet of Rodina leader Dmitry Rogozin and Moscow City Duma Deputy Yury Popov, who look down at a rind and then at the men. "Get up and pick up after yourselves," Rogozin says. Popov then leans over and asks one of the men slowly, "Do you understand Russian?"

The ad then cuts to a shot of the Rodina logo and the phrase "Let's clear the city of garbage." A voiceover says, "Let's clean our city."

The City Prosecutor's Office opened its investigation at the request of the city elections committee. TV Center earlier this week asked the elections committee to examine the commercial to determine the legality of its content, TV Center spokeswoman Yekaterina Tarasova said.

The 30-second ad is rife with stereotypes of people from the Caucasus, most glaringly the watermelons. City fruit and vegetable stands are often run by migrants from the Caucasus and Central Asian countries, and giant cages of watermelons on street corners are some of the migrants' most visible outposts during the summer months.

Vladimir Ryzhkov, an independent State Duma deputy, said Wednesday that he considered the ad illegal. "It incites racism and encourages hatred of Caucasus natives and migrants," Ryzhkov said. "I'm confident that there are enough grounds to ban the ad and to prosecute the people behind it."

State Duma First Deputy Speaker Lyubov Sliska, of United Russia, warned that Rogozin should "think about the country he lives in and the legal consequences" of the ad, Interfax reported.

The ad, part of Rodina's campaign for the Dec. 4 City Duma elections, has been running twice daily since Saturday and will continue to run until the channel receives orders to do otherwise, Tarasova said. "It is part of a political campaign, and formally we have no right to refuse to show it," she said.

Rogozin and Popov denied that the spot contained racist overtones, and Popov claimed that littering was the main issue. "We support a clean city," Popov said in a statement on Rodina's web site. "There is not one word about nationalities in the ad, not one call for ethnic hatred."

Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, called the ad a deft move by Rodina, especially with riots by immigrants continuing in France. "It's already out there, so it doesn't matter now whether they take it off the air," he said. "It should give them a real boost in the City Duma elections and the subsequent State Duma elections."