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Moscow Mayor Wins Another Libel Suit

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has never lost a libel suit
A Moscow court has ordered liberal politician Boris Nemtsov to pay the city's powerful mayor the equivalent of $17,100 for libel.

The court on November 30 also ordered the respected "Kommersant" daily to pay Mayor Yury Luzhkov another $17,100 for publishing an interview with Nemtsov repeating some of his corruption allegations against the mayor.

Both Nemtsov and the newspaper will have to retract the statements deemed libelous.

Luzhkov is famous for never having lost a libel suit in his 18-year tenure.

Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and co-founder of the Union of Rightist Forces party, appeared unfazed by the court ruling.

Speaking in court minutes after the ruling, he sought to put a positive spin on the case and even cracked jokes about Luzhkov, drawing laughter from journalists.

"I am happy that almost all of Luzhkov's claims against me were rejected. He was demanding the retraction of seven sentences, and there's just one left," Nemtsov said.

"I need to retract the sentence: 'For many Muscovites, it is no secret that corruption permeates all levels of Moscow authorities.' That's what I will write: 'For many Muscovites, it is a secret...'"

Press Freedom Concerns

The decision to punish "Kommersant," however, has raised some concern over press freedom in Russia.

"I think that our justice's decision to give 'Kommersant' a 500,000-[ruble] fine for nothing at all as it celebrates its 100th anniversary is an absolute disgrace and an open effort to pressure," Nemtsov said.

"Kommersant" lawyer Dmitry Zharkov said Luzhkov's lawsuit was an attempt to muzzle journalists.

"We will swiftly appeal the court's decision. A brief appeal has already been prepared. We consider that the sum is designed to frighten the media into no longer writing anything negative about Yury Luzhkov," Zharkov said.

Luzhkov had initially sought 10 times more money from each Nemtsov and "Kommersant" in his lawsuit, filed after Nemtsov published a brochure earlier this year reviewing his 18-year career as Moscow boss.

The brochure accused Luzhkov of using his post as city mayor to promote the business interests of his wife, Yelena Baturina, Russia's richest woman and the owner of a major construction firm.

The report branded the mayor a "thief" and a "corrupt official."

Earlier this year, Luzhkov won a libel case against "The New York Times" over an article alleging that he supported separatists in Moldova and Crimea.

RFE/RL's Russian Service contributed to this report