Alexei Navalny ordered to delete anti-government video after losing defamation case

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A Russian opposition leader has been ordered to delete a Youtube video that inspired anti-government protests after a Moscow court ruled it defamed one of the country’s richest men.

Moscow’s Lyublinsky district court on Wednesday ordered Alexei Navalny to post a correction in place of the film after a judge agreed that it included libelous claims about Alisher Usmanov, the multi-billionaire part-owner of Arsenal football club.

Mr Navalny said he would refuse to comply with the order.

Alisher Usmanov

Alisher Usmanov

Credit:
Maxim Shemetov/AP

“You heard the key phrase in the verdict just now, the reason why this trial was held: ‘To remove the video and remove the investigation’,” he told reporters outside the court. “We are not going to do that. This investigation is based on facts.

“Don’t call him Dimon,” a documentary presented by Mr Navalny, has been viewed more than 20 million times since it was published on March 2.

The film lays out allegations that Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, runs a secret property empire hidden inside a series of non-profit foundations officially controlled by friends.

The Anti Corruption Committee, the investigative NGO that Mr Navalny leads, claims its research shows Mr Medvedev uses alleged empire to accept bribes.  

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has denied links to the property

Credit:
ITAR-TASS Photo Agency / Alamy Live News

Mr Usmanov filed a defamation suit against Mr Navalny over the claim that he transferred a five billion-ruble (£69 million) property outside Moscow to Sotsgosproekt, a foundation Mr Navalny claims is controlled by Mr Medvedev, as a bribe.  

Mr Medvedev has denied any connection to the property. Mr Usmanov, who Forbes magazine lists as Russia’s fifth-richest man with an estimated fortune of $15 billion, says the transaction was a bona fide business deal.

The case developed into a public feud earlier this month after Mr Usmanov posted his own video blog ahead of the hearing calling Mr Navalny a “loser” and “failed businessman.”  

People take part in an unsanctioned rally in Moscow on March 26 

People take part in an unsanctioned rally in Moscow on March 26 

Credit:
Tass/Barcroft images

Judge Marina Vasina ruled in Mr Usmanov’s favour on Wednesday afternoon following a two day hearing. She gave Mr Navalny ten days to comply with the order.

Hundreds of people including Mr Navalny were arrested for attending an unsanctioned rally when he called a demonstration to demand  Mr Medvedev respond to the allegations in March.

The protests in Moscow and dozens of other cities were the largest anti-government rallies for five years.

Mr Navalny and his team hope to leverage anger at corruption into votes in next year’s presidential election, where he intends to challenge Vladimir Putin for the Kremlin.