A Moscow court has begun hearings in the case of a defamation lawsuit filed by Kremlin-connected oligarch Alisher Usmanov against opposition politician and anticorruption activist Aleksei Navalny.
Lyublinsky district court Judge Marina Vasina ruled at the opening hearing on May 30 that the court would not allow video broadcasts of the hearings, even though both sides in the case supported doing so.
The case springs from a video Navalny made alleging massive corruption on the part of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev using a network of purported charitable foundations to control wealth both in Russia and abroad.
One of the allegations was that Usmanov gave a $50 million mansion outside Moscow to one of Medvedev's foundations "as a gift."
Navalny was present in the courtroom, while Usmanov was represented by his lawyer, Genrikh Padva.
Navalny's lawyer asked that the case be dismissed, arguing that it should be heard by an arbitration court.
The judge rejected that motion as well as a defense motion asking for the social foundation Sotsgosproekt to turn over the document by which it acquired the mansion in question.
According to court filings, the billionaire Usmanov is not seeking compensation for any damages, but wants a retraction and apology from Navalny for numerous claims made in the video, including that Usmanov gave bribes, was a criminal, did not pay taxes in Russia, was convicted of rape in Soviet times, and participated in the illegal privatization of mining concerns.
With reporting by Meduza and Interfax