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Moscow Times
September 24, 2009
Luzhkov Sues Politician for Corruption Claim
By Natalya Krainova

Mayor Yury Luzhkov has sued Right Cause party co-leader Leonid Gozman for libel after Gozman said the mayor should be held responsible for corruption in Moscow.

“I’ve said that I believe that Luzhkov, as the city’s manager, bears direct responsibility for the level of corruption in the city,” Gozman told The Moscow Times on Wednesday, repeating a claim that he made on July 14 on Ren-TV’s “24” news program.

Luzhkov is asking Moscow’s Khamovnichesky District Court to declare the televised comments libelous and to order Gozman to pay him 500,000 rubles ($16,640) in compensation, Right Cause said on its web site.

“Any accusations without a court order are offensive,” Luzhkov’s spokesman Leonid Krutakov said by telephone.

Right Cause also posted an open letter to Medvedev on Netlujkovu.ru, or “No to Luzhkov,” a web site created by party supporters several days ago, asking President Dmitry Medvedev to dismiss Luzhkov in connection with the level of corruption in Moscow, Gozman said.

Gozman said more than 100,000 visitors had signed the letter by Tuesday night, when the web site went down because of “a professional hacker attack that cost big money.”

Another Luzhkov spokesman, Sergei Tsoi, said Wednesday that Luzhkov was considering filing a second lawsuit against Gozman for “faking votes” in support of the letter to Medvedev, Interfax reported.

No one was available for comment at the Kremlin’s press office Wednesday, a spokeswoman said.

Tsoi got support in his allegation of “faking votes” from the chief programmer of LiveInternet.ru, Maxim Zotov, who said by e-mail Wednesday that his company had sold software that counted the number of web site visitors to the administrators of Netlujkovu.ru but that they posted fake figures instead of the real ones determined by the counter. He did not provide the real figures.

But Tsoi said Tuesday that the real number of visitors to the site was 8,155 on Monday, while the counter showed 170,000 at the same time, Interfax reported.

Tsoi said Wednesday that Luzhkov would not file the second lawsuit if Gozman publicly admitted to faking the votes and publicly apologized to the mayor.

Gozman denied that the votes were falsified.

Gozman said Right Cause would hold a series of rallies in Moscow starting next week to collect signatures that carried the “legal force” for Luzhkov’s dismissal, because Internet signatures have no legal force.

Luzhkov, who has overseen a construction boom in the capital, has been accused of corruption and of helping advance the business interests of his wife, billionaire Yelena Baturina. Luzhkov has persistently denied allegations of wrongdoing and has rarely lost a libel case.

The Medvedev letter reiterated those earlier accusations.

The allegations and lawsuit come during campaigning for Moscow City Duma elections on Oct. 11. Luzhkov tops United Russia’s list of candidates in a common plot to garner votes. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin headed United Russia’s list during the 2007 State Duma elections even though he ­ like Luzhkov ­ had no interest in claiming a seat.

Right Cause, a new, pro-business party, is not participating in the City Duma elections as a party but is ­fielding one candidate as an independent.

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