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Russian Provincial Governor Sues Journalist For Libel

Sergei Mikhailov
Sergei Mikhailov
The governor of the Altai Republic in western Siberia has filed a libel lawsuit against a local journalist, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Governor Aleksandr Berdnikov is demanding 500,000 rubles ($16,000) from Sergei Mikhailov, the chief editor of the local opposition weekly "Listok," as compensation for "moral damage."

Berdnikov says Mikhailov damaged his personal honor and business reputation in several articles he published in his newspaper. Berdnikov says in one of those articles Mikhailov called the local government "a cesspool."

Mikhailov was charged with libel and extremism earlier this year, and the local prosecutor's office says those cases are still being investigated.

Those earlier charges derive from a placard Mikhailov was seen holding during an opposition demonstration in the republican capital, Gorno-Altaisk, with derogatory comments about Berdnikov's deputy, Sergei Tevonian, who is Armenian. Police said the placard incited hatred toward Armenians. They subsequently searched the editorial offices of "Listok."

Mikhailov says that he had nothing to do with the placard and was simply asked to hold it by another participant in the demonstration. He denies all the charges against him, which he claims are politically motivated. Mikhailov says the local authorities are hitting back at him in retaliation for his articles criticizing local officials.