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Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny

MOSCOW -- The Russian state-controlled broadcaster RT has filed a lawsuit against opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Aleksei Navalny, alleging that he damaged the firm’s business reputation.

Navalny posted notice of the lawsuit on his Twitter account on June 7.

Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, and the news website were also named as defendants in the suit.

According to the notice, Moscow’s Arbitration Court found unspecified “errors” in the lawsuit and gave RT additional time to correct them.

Navalny and his foundation have published several exposés in recent months about RT and its editor in chief, Margarita Simonyan. It was unclear which of the reports was the trigger for the lawsuit.

Some of the publications have described various means by which RT, formerly known as Russia Today, boosts the number of views it has on the YouTube platform. Others, in general, have accused RT of being ineffective and a drain on the Russian state budget.

“Other propagandists, [Channel One’s Vladimir] Solovyov or [Rossia-24’s Dmitry] Kiselyov, for instance, at least have their viewers on state television,” Sobol said in an interview with RFE/RL in April. “But as we have shown, Margarita Simonyan has no audience.”

Navalny’s foundation has also accused RT of violating Russian legislation on noncommercial organizations.

In March, the Anti-Corruption Foundation issued a report alleging that Simonyan; her husband, filmmaker Tigran Keosayan; and their relatives received tens of millions of rubles from the state budget to produce a patriotic romantic comedy set against the backdrop of the construction of a bridge linking the Ukrainian region of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, to Russia.

According to Navalny’s Foundation, Simonyan was paid 9.1 million rubles ($138,000) and Keosayan received 13.9 million rubles ($211,000) for their work on the 2018 film, titled The Crimean Bridge. Made With Love!

Ilya Azar (right) talks to journalists after his release.

A Russian journalist who also serves on a Moscow district council has been released from jail after serving 10 days in detention for staging a single-person picket.

Ilya Azar walked free from the Moscow jail on June 7, two days after a Moscow court ordered his term shortened.

Azar, who works for the independent Novaya gazeta newspaper, was detained on May 26 for staging a single-person picket, a form of protest that does not require permission from the authorities.

He was protesting the jailing of another activist who has worked to expose violations within Russia's law enforcement agencies.

Police said Azar was detained for violating lockdown orders imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

His arrest prompted an outcry among Russian journalists and municipal lawmakers who also staged single-person protests in support.

Last August, Azar helped organize a series of anti-government rallies in the Russian capital calling for fair elections. The rallies drew tens of thousands of people.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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