Russian Opposition Leader Loses Billionaire's Defamation Case

  • Navalny defiant, says ruling will bolster June 12 protests
  • Usmanov lawyer says Navalny’s accusations proved groundless

A Russian court sided with billionaire Alisher Usmanov in his defamation lawsuit against opposition leader Alexey Navalny on Wednesday, ordering the politician to retract allegations about Usmanov.

Navalny in March released a YouTube video about Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, alleging that Usmanov and other business people donated luxury assets and money to a fund run by a university classmate of the head of government in what amounted to bribery. Usmanov, who sued over a range of accusations made by Navalny, said his deal transferring ownership of property was a legitimate business transaction.

Moscow’s Lyublinsky court ruled Wednesday that Navalny should remove the video -- which has been viewed by 21 million people -- and apologize, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said in a Twitter posting. “This won’t be done,” said Navalny, who plans to appeal the decision. “This investigation is based on facts.”

The opposition figure, who staged the biggest protests in five years in March under the banner of anti-corruption, plans new rallies on June 12 in almost 220 cities and towns. The court ruling against him will bring even more people onto the streets, he said.

If Navalny remains in contempt of the court order, he could potentially face criminal charges.

Vladimir Usenko, a lawyer for Usmanov’s USM Holdings, said the tycoon is satisfied with the court ruling, which confirmed that Navalny had no proof of his accusations. Usmanov this month posted two videos on YouTube responding directly to Navalny’s accusations, which he called “lies.”

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