Monday, April 21, 2014


Russia

Russian Campaigner Launches Sochi Corruption Website

Workers are seen at the construction site of an Olympic venue building in Krasnaya Polyana on January 27.
Workers are seen at the construction site of an Olympic venue building in Krasnaya Polyana on January 27.
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By RFE/RL
Russian opposition figure and anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny has launched a website that monitors alleged corruption connected to the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The website, Sochi.fbk.info, which went public on January 27, claims that the price tags for at least 10 Olympic venues were twice as expensive as they should have been.

It also alleges conflicts of interest in lucrative Sochi construction deals that were handed over to oligarchs and companies with close ties to the Kremlin of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The entire Sochi project from the very outset was conceived in the way that it would not only produce the Olympic Games but would also enrich a small circle of Putin's close friends," Navalny told Reuters news agency in Moscow.

The colorful website presents an array of graphics, photos, and data. It provides links to a variety of other websites in a bid to demonstrate the legitimacy of its claims.

The website says the Olympics media center has been constructed by the Enzhtransstroi company, co-owned by billionaire businessman Arkady Rotenberg, who is reputedly a close friend of President Putin.

It also says a key Olympic office building has been built by the Monarch construction company, co-owned by Andrei Morozov, the son of a former vice president of Olympstroi, the state company in charge of the Sochi construction.

According to the website, the Sochi theme park -- the first of its kind in Russia -- was constructed by a company that employs well-connected politician and businessman Roman Batalov as its vice president.

It says Batalov, 28, is the son-in-law of Aleksandr Tkachev, the governor of the Krasnodar region, where Sochi is located.

"Athletes are not the only people who compete in Sochi," Navalny wrote on the website. "Officials and businesses also took part in the Games and turned them into a source of income."

Setting Records

Putin recently denied widespread corruption allegations over the Sochi Olympics. Putin blamed inflated prices for Sochi construction projects on honest miscalculations by firms and investors.

A Russian audit report in 2012 found about $500 million in unreasonable cost overruns in the construction of Olympic venues.

Russia has spent an estimated $51 billion, a new world record, on preparations to host the Olympics.

The Sochi Olympics are due to be held from February 7–23.

Navalny, an outspoken government critic known for leading mass opposition protests, finished second in Moscow's mayoral election last year.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and Sochi.fbk.info

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