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Russia mogul under pressure wants to sell assets

MOSCOW — A Russian tycoon whose holdings include a leading investigative newspaper critical of the Kremlin said Friday that he wants to sell his Russian assets because of pressure from state security services.

Alexander Lebedev, who is worth $1.1 billion according to Forbes magazine, said the main KGB successor agency has targeted him with a series of investigations and inspections to push him out of business.

"For the past three years my business has been deliberately and continuously destroyed by Division K of the Federal Security Service's economic security department," Lebedev said on his blog. "Haunting and pressure has targeted not only me and workers of my companies, but my family members as well."

He said the main reason behind the Russian Federal Security Service's pressure on him was corruption investigations by the Novaya Gazeta he has financed, alleging that some of its officers were involved in corruption.

Lebedev and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev own a 49 percent stake in the newspaper, while the remaining shares are controlled by Novaya's staffers. Lebedev also owns two newspapers in Britain, the Independent and the Evening Standard.

The Novaya Gazeta's relentless criticism of the Kremlin and its investigations into official corruption have put many of its journalists under fire. Four of its reporters have been killed since 2000. Others have been harassed and attacked.

Lebedev also has supported Alexei Navalny, a charismatic anticorruption crusader and blogger who was a key driving force against massive protests in the past winter against Vladimir Putin's rule. This week, Navalny was charged with theft amid a widening crackdown on dissent that followed Putin's re-election to a third term in March.

Russia mogul under pressure wants to sell assets 08/03/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 3, 2012 10:38pm]
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