Billionaire Alexander Lebedev: One More 'Hooligan' For Russia

on September 26 2012 6:36 PM
Lebedev
Alexander Lebedev, along with Mikhail Gorbachev, finances independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which has been known to present critical coverage of Russian President Valdimir Putin's administration. REUTERS

Here’s a Russian riddle: What does a brilliantly bedecked all-girl punk band have in common with a 52-year-old business tycoon in wire-frame glasses?

As it turns out, both are vulnerable to criminal charges of "hooliganism" -- especially if they are critics of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The billionaire is Alexander Lebedev. He faces criminal charges because he actually punched another businessman in the face while the two were being filmed as guests on a television talk show last year.

Lebedev’s net worth is estimated by Forbes to be worth more than $3 billion. He owns two major British newspapers, The Independent and The Evening Standard, as well as one Russian publication, all of which have freely criticized the Kremlin.

Russia’s other famous hooligans -- members of the punk band Pussy Riot -- were prosecuted for staging an anti-Kremlin performance inside a Moscow cathedral in February. Several members of the band -- all outfitted with candy-colored tights and face masks -- rushed the pulpit to sing, dance and shout as nuns and security officials rushed to silence them.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" on Aug. 17 and sentenced to two years in a penal colony. They are appealing their sentence.

In response to his own charges of hooliganism, which were announced on Wednesday, Lebedev was defiant.

"I don't see any reason for anybody fabricating a case like that unless they want to put you into prison, pushing you through the judiciary system which, as we all know in Pussy Riot's and other cases, has nothing to do with justice,” he said, according to Voice of America.

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