Russian opposition leader accuses premier of corruption
FILE – In this file photo taken on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks at a news conference in his campaign office in St. Petersburg, Russia. Russia’s leading opposition figure has published a sweeping report accusing the nation’s prime minister of corruption, the claim the premier’s office has shrugged off as propaganda. (AP Photo/Elena Ignatyeva, File)
MOSCOW — Russia’s leading opposition figure has published a sweeping report accusing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of corruption, claims which the government has shrugged off as propaganda.
In a report posted Thursday, Alexei Navalny alleged Medvedev has amassed a collection of lavish mansions, yachts and vineyards managed by companies and charities controlled by his associates.
Medvedev’s spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, dismissed Navalny’s claims as part of election campaigning, saying in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that it’s ‘senseless’ to comment on his ‘propaganda attacks.’
Asked about the report Friday, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said he had nothing to add to Timakova’s statement.
The charismatic Navalny, who became popular via his exposes of high-level corruption, was a driving force behind massive opposition protests in Moscow in 2011-2012.
He has declared his intention to run for president in 2018, even though a court ruling last month bars him from joining the race. He denounced the ruling as politically motivated and vowed to appeal it.
His report names Ilya Yeliseyev, a deputy head of Gazprombank, and a few other people whom it describes as longtime contacts of Medvedev, as nominal owners of the prized real estate and other assets in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, as well as an Italian villa surrounded by vineyards.
Some experts voiced skepticism.
Ilya Shumanov, a deputy head of Transparency International’s branch in Russia, noted that Navalny has failed to offer irrefutable proof of Medvedev’s link to the assets. ‘There is no proof of a link between them despite friendly ties,’ he said on Ekho Moskvy radio Friday.
Navalny insisted there is abundant proof of Medvedev being the real owner of the assets, and he criticized what he described as public indifference to corruption.
‘I try to do things in a way they should be done in a normal world,’ Navalny said Thursday on Ekho Moskvy radio. ‘In Russia we are observing an absurd situation when we publish on the internet that someone received bribes worth of 70 billion and everybody’s reaction is like ‘yeah, nothing interesting. … This won’t lead to anything.”