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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mitvol Gets a Funeral Bouquet

In one of the odder campaign incidents ahead of Moscow City Duma elections, a Communist deputy on Friday delivered a funeral bouquet to Prefect Oleg Mitvol, accusing him of running a dirty campaign in the Northern Administrative District.

Oleg Smolin, who is legally blind and vice president of the All-Russia Blind Society, presented his State Duma credentials in the prefecture and left the flowers at the door of Mitvol’s office.

“It was two red and two yellow flowers, held together by a funeral ribbon,” Mitvol told The Moscow Times. “Imagine my secretary’s shock.”

Mitvol, a former Yabloko member who is running in Sunday’s City Duma elections for United Russia, chased Smolin into the street, but the deputy “said he wouldn’t shake my hand.”

Smolin, who is running for the Communist Party in the Northern Administrative District, said in a telephone interview that the funeral flowers symbolized “the end of political freedom and decency in the leadership ranks of the northern prefecture.”

He accused Mitvol of making the Moscow elections “dirty” by continued “mudslinging.”

Prominent politicians frequently run in local legislative contests to attract voters but then decline the seats. It is unlikely that Mitvol or Smolin will take seats in the City Duma.

The two have been mired in a mudslinging campaign since the summer, when Mitvol began a campaign against a gay club in his district that rents space in a building belonging to the All-Russia Blind Society.

Smolin filed a lawsuit against Mitvol on Sept. 24 for linking his name to the club, along with a similar suit against TV host Andrei Karaulov. He is seeking a combined 15 million rubles ($500,000).

“I’m a peaceful person,” Smolin said. “But I will defend my honor and reputation in court.”

Mitvol, however, missed the most recent court hearing, and afterward an unidentified attacker broke the window of Smolin’s car with a drill while the deputy was seated inside and fled with his briefcase, Smolin said.

“Someone broke the window shouting, ‘I’ll shoot you,’ and grabbed my briefcase. Of course, I didn’t see who they were, but they left the drill,” Smolin said.

A few days later, his assistant’s Oka, a Soviet-built compact car no longer in production, was also broken into. “Nobody in their right mind would break into an Oka,” Smolin said, adding that he thought the incidents were linked and politically motivated.

“I’m not accusing anybody. I’m just stating the facts,” Smolin said.

Mitvol suggested that Smolin had staged the drill attack and called the incident “even funnier” than the funeral flowers. “Any detective will tell you that if you don’t want to hurt anybody with shattered glass, you puncture it with a drill,” he said.

“Don’t you know of the campaign ploys when candidates set their own cars on fire?” he added.

He promised to attend the next court hearing. “I have things to say,” said Mitvol, who is best known as the former deputy head of the federal environmental watchdog that effectively forced Royal Dutch Shell to hand over control of its Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project to Gazprom in 2006.

Mitvol said he missed the last court hearing because the letter of notification went to his work address and he received it too late. “Lawsuits are normal, but [the bouquet] is too much,” he said.