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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mitvol Given Funeral Bouquet for Dirty Campaign

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

Oleg Smolin, the deputy, 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, a candidate in the same district for the Communists, said in a telephone interview that his action was meant to mark "the end of political freedom and decency in the leadership ranks of the Northern Prefecture," and he accused Mitvol of making the Moscow elections "dirty" by continued "mud-slinging."

Prominent Russian politicians frequently run at the top of party lists in legislative contests to attract voters but then decline the seats. It is unlikely that Mitvol or Smolin would take seats in the City Duma.

The two have been mired in the mud since this 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 for 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 Smolin was attacked while sitting in his car.

"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 a 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," he said, adding that he thought the incidents were linked and political.

"I'm not accusing anybody, I'm just stating the facts," Smolin said.

Mitvol called Smolin's attack "even funnier" than the funeral visit. "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, adding that the attackers would use a rock to break the window "if they were not people close to him."

Asked whether he thought Smolin used the drill himself, Mitvol said no, but asked, "Don't you know of the campaign ploys when candidates set their own cars on fire?

"I'll go to the next court date, I have things to say," said Mitvol, who is best known as the former deputy head of an environmental watchdog that forced Royal Dutch Shell to hand over control of its Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project to Gazprom.

Last time, Mitvol said, he received the court notification too late because it went to his work address. "Lawsuits are normal, but [the bouquet] is too much," he said.