- Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use
- Soldier who hid, bragged about not saluting flag to be punished — in secret
- ‘Maverick’ of the seas: ‘Top Gun’ school for U.S. ship officers to launch
- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
- Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer
- Billionaire backer: Rick Santorum ‘needs to be heard’ in 2016
- Obamacare fallout: 49 percent pessimistic; 45 percent ‘scared’
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
Prominent Kremlin critic faces criminal charges
MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian tycoon who has financed a newspaper critical of the Kremlin and supported the opposition has been charged with hooliganism and assault for punching a fellow billionaire during a television talk show. He dismissed the criminal case as politically motivated.
Russia’s top investigative agency, which announced the charges Wednesday, said the defendant, Alexander Lebedev, cannot leave Moscow while the probe is under way. In Russia, filing charges marks the start of a criminal investigation, which may or may not lead to a trial.
He could face up to seven years in prison if he’s convicted on hooliganism charges similar to those that were filed against three members of the feminist rock band Pussy Riot. They were sentenced to two years each last month for performing a “punk prayer” against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral.
Mr. Putin has taken an increasingly tough course against dissent after massive protests against his rule last winter, with searches and interrogation of opposition activists and the passage of repressive bills.
Mr. Lebedev, whose net worth was reported by Forbes magazine to be $1.1 billion, made his money in the banking industry. He has financed the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, which is fiercely critical of the Kremlin, and the British papers the Independent and the Evening Standard.
Mr. Lebedev’s son, Yevgeny, who owns the two British publications, tweeted that his father is “being targeted by people who don’t like his stance against corruption, and hate Novaya.” He later described the charges as “extraordinarily disproportionate.”
“My father has been targeted because of his determination to fight against corruption and to be a crusader for democracy in a country where this has not always been welcome,” the younger Mr. Lebedev said in a statement. “I really hope that this does not presage a new phase of crackdowns on those who speak out against injustice.”
The tycoon said last month that he was being forced to sell his assets because of pressure by Russia’s Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor agency. He said the pressure was rooted in corruption investigations by Novaya Gazeta, alleging that some of the service’s officers were involved in corruption.
The elder Mr. Lebedev and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev own a 49 percent stake in the newspaper, while the remaining shares are controlled by Novaya’s staffers.
Novaya Gazeta’s relentless criticism of the Kremlin, and its investigations into official corruption, have put many of its journalists under fire. Four of the paper’s reporters have been killed since 2000, including Anna Politkovskaya, a fierce critic of the Kremlin and its policies in Chechnya. She was gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building in 2006. Others have been harassed and physically attacked.
Mr. Lebedev also has supported Alexei Navalny, a charismatic anti-corruption crusader and blogger who was a key driving force against massive protests last winter against Mr. Putin’s rule. Mr. Lebedev, a KGB veteran like Mr. Putin, so far has avoided blaming the president for his woes, pointing the finger at security services for the campaign against him.
Mr. Lebedev’s lawyer, Genri Reznik, told Interfax that the newly announced charges come as a “punishment for Lebedev’s social activities, his fight against corruption, his funding of an opposition newspaper and support for Navalny.”
Mr. Lebedev owns the National Reserve Bank and has a stake in Russian flag carrier Aeroflot as well as his own Red Wings airline.
The charges refer to a September 2011 incident during which Mr. Lebedev punched property developer Sergei Polonsky during a TV show, sending him tumbling to the ground.
TWT Video Picks
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second
- Vietnam says it may have found door of missing Malaysian jet as intel look into stolen passports
- Bill Clinton cashes in on struggling nonprofit hospital
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- Obama engages in Ukraine diplomacy from Fla. resort as Russia digs in
- CPAC 2014 straw poll results
- EDITORIAL: Senate rejects Adegbile for Justice post
- Italy outraged over U.S. gun dealer's 'David' ad
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again