Dissident Russian tycoon charged

Sept. 26, 2012 at 4:23 PM   |   Comments

MOSCOW, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Alexander Lebedev, a KGB officer turned Russian tycoon and government critic, was charged Wednesday with assaulting a developer a year ago.

Lebedev, 52, could be imprisoned for five years if convicted of "a politically motivated grave violation of public order," RIA Novosti reported. He knocked Serge Polonsky down during a taping at NTV, the state-run TV channel, although Polonsky was not seriously hurt.

"The charge is absurd -- there is not a single lawyer or expert who would support it," a Lebedev adviser, Artyom Artyomov, said.

Lebedev owns Novaya Gazeta in Russia and The Independent in Britain as well as a Moscow bank. He offered to put up bail for the members of the rock group Pussy Riot earlier this year and recently said he was thinking of ending his investments in Russia because of pressure from security services.

His son, Yevgeny, used Twitter to denounce the prosecution as political.

"He is being targeted by people who don't like his stance against corruption, and hate Novaya," Yevgeny Lebedev wrote. "I don't condone violence, but the punishment does not fit the crime here. We need more Russians to speak out against injustice, not fewer. I hope this isn't the start of a new crackdown."

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