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Outside Russian White House in Moscow, woman sets herself ablaze

A woman who set herself on fire in Moscow reportedly had tried suicide in the past, but some link her to recent protests against Vladimir Putin.

February 13, 2012|By Khristina Narizhnaya, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Moscow — A woman set herself on fire Sunday in front of the Moscow White House, the formal seat of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.

The woman, identified as Vera Smolina, a 56-year-old Nizhny Tagil resident, doused herself with gasoline and lighted a match in front of one of the entrances to the building. Security guards quickly put out the fire, and Smolina was hospitalized with serious burns, Russian news reports said.

"She made no demands before attempting self-immolation," a security source told the Interfax news agency. "She was not carrying any posters, so we do not know why she did this."

The woman had apparently attempted suicide in the past, Interfax said, citing her sister. But online, commenters blamed the government.

"Look at what the thieves have done to the people," one commenter named belybor wrote in Gazeta.ru, an online newspaper.

"I think Vera Smolina did a heroic deed.... It's time to refuse slavery," a blogger wrote in Livejournal, a popular blogging forum in Russia.

Another Livejournal entry titled "Vera Smolina and the Arab Spring" mentioned that the "Arab Spring" started after Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia.

A wave of antigovernment protests has swept Russia in recent months, triggered by fraud allegations in the Dec. 4 parliamentary elections. Putin is expected to return to the presidency after a March 4 election.

Nizhny Tagil, a poor industrial city in the Ural Mountains, is a traditional center of support for Putin.

Narizhnaya is a special correspondent.

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