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Navalny Lawsuit Against Putin Rejected By Court


A combo photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Sibur co-owner Kirill Shamalov
A combo photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Sibur co-owner Kirill Shamalov

A Moscow court has rejected opposition leader Aleksei Navalny's lawsuit against President Vladimir Putin accusing the Russian leader of a conflict of interest in the awarding of $1.75 billion in government financing to a company partly owned by his son-in-law.

Anastasia Dzyurko, a spokeswoman for the Tverskoi district court, said on February 12 that a judge rejected the lawsuit Navalny filed a day earlier because it did not qualify for consideration under "administrative proceedings," Russian media reported.

Public records show that Putin in October tasked his government with allocating $1.75 billion in state financing for a massive refinery being built in western Siberia by Sibur, Russia's largest gas and petrochemicals processor.

The second-largest shareholder in Sibur is Kirill Shamalov, who has been identified in Russian and Western media as the husband of one of Putin's daughters.

Navalny said in his lawsuit that Putin was required by Russian law to disclose a conflict of interest when he instructed officials to finance the Sibur project.

Both Shamalov and the Kremlin have refused to confirm reports that he is married to Putin's younger daughter but have not denied them.

Shamalov, the son of a longtime associate of Putin's, holds a 21.3 percent stake in Sibur, making him the company's second-largest shareholder.

A Reuters investigation last year found that the company received the loan last year from Russia's National Wealth Fund at an unusually low interest rate.

Navalny reacted sarcastically, saying on Twitter that he was "dumbfounded and shocked" by the decision.

Ivan Zhdanov, a lawyer who works with Navalny, said in a February 12 Facebook post that the judge had no right to reject the lawsuit and that they would appeal the decision.

Navalny, a driving force in the opposition street protests that preceded Putin's return to the Kremlin in 2012 following a four-year stint as prime minister, wrote on his blog that "the truth is on our side."

"It is an undeniable fact that Putin personally made the decision to give his son-in-law's company $1.75 billion from the National Welfare Fund," he wrote. "Any normal person (even if he is a supporter of Putin) will agree that there is a conflict of interest here."

Irina Yarova, a member of Putin's ruling United Russia party and head of the security committee in the lower house of parliament, said that Navalny's lawsuit was aimed at discrediting Putin ahead of a high-profile annual security conference that kicked off in Munich on February 12, the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the state-owned TASS news agency as saying on February 11 that Putin was unaware of the lawsuit.

With reporting by Interfax, Business FM, Reuters, and RIA Novosti
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    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.