A billionaire critic of the Kremlin was charged by Russian authorities of hooliganism and battery for punching another wealthy Russian businessman on television last year.
The Russian Investigative Committee announced the charge against Alexander Lebedev, who is said to be worth $1.1 billion, on its website on Wednesday and said he cannot leave the country, reported The Moscow Times.
Lebedev faces a five-year prison term for “hooliganism motivated by political, ideological, racial, ethnic or religious hatred or enmity,” according to the newspaper.
“These charges are fabricated,” Genri Reznik, Lebedev’s lawyer, told The Independent newspaper, which is owned by Lebedev’s son along with the Evening Standard.
“It’s political revenge. They are absolutely false. I don’t have anything else to say. As a lawyer, all I can say is that the whole thing is a fabrication,” Reznik added.
In the incident last year, Lebedev threw a punch at Russian property magnate Sergei Polonsky during a televised debate. Polonksy was knocked off his chair and the two did not throw any punches after that.
His son, Evgeny Lebedev, told the Independent that it “is an extraordinarily disproportionate response to what happened in a TV studio many months ago.”
“My father has been targeted because of his determination to fight against corruption and to be a crusader for democracy in a country where this has not always been welcome,” he continued.
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