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Russian Governor Withdraws Lawsuit After Winning Libel Case

OMSK, Russia -- A Russian regional governor has withdrawn a libel lawsuit against the mother of a dead soldier -- just days after winning the case, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

On August 24, a court in Omsk found Alma Bukharbayeva guilty of insulting the honor and dignity of Omsk Oblast Governor Leonid Polezhayev.

Bukharbayeva had picketed the building of the Omsk regional Military Commission in early August 2010, holding a sign saying: "[Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin and Polezhayev are killers of our children! Now kill us, the mothers!"

Bukharbayeva's son, Marat, was killed while serving in the Russian Army in 2002 in Khabarovsk Krai in Russia's Far East. She told RFE/RL that no proper explanation was ever given regarding her son's death, and that when her son's body was exhumed it bore indications that he might have been murdered.

But on August 26, after the court verdict went his way, Polezhayev posted a statement on his website saying that he had decided to withdraw the lawsuit. He apologized to Bukharbayeva for "being unable to save her son," and accused unnamed persons of pressuring her into demonstrating.

An RFE/RL correspondent reports from Omsk that it appears to be a rare case of a local politician retracting a decision under pressure from the media.

All local media outlets focused on the case after the August 24 court decision was pronounced, and most coverage was critical of Polezhayev.

Local experts told RFE/RL that the case sets a precedent for a lawsuit being withdrawn after the accused was found guilty. It is not clear how the court decision can be overruled.

Polezhayev, now 70, has been governor of the oblast since December 1995.