Russian opposition figure and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov has alleged that billions of dollars have been stolen from funds allocated to next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Nemtsov and an associate said in a report released on May 30 that up to $30 billion was estimated to have been stolen in the run-up to the games.
"The main conclusion from the first chapter of our report is that, in preparing for the Olympics, $25 to $30 billion have been stolen," Nemtsov said.
Nemstov, presenting the report to journalists in Moscow, said he had arrived at that figure by comparing the initial cost estimate of the games with the final $51 billion price tag and with typical overruns at previous Olympics.
He claimed the money was stolen by officials and businessmen during the years of preparations for the 2014 Winter Games.
In an interview with RFE/RL after his press conference, Nemtsov blamed people associated with President Vladimir Putin for the situation in Sochi.
"It is obvious that Putin's friends are running the preparations for the [2014 Sochi] Olympic Games," Nemtsov said. "It is also obvious that one is reluctant to put his own friends behind bars. However, we cannot look at all this passively because the scale [of their activities] will only grow bigger. The embezzlement they are presiding over is not just some kind of children's game but a real threat to Russia's national security."
He called for an independent investigation into the alleged theft.
"We suggest establishing a civic committee in charge of the investigation of the crimes committed around the Olympic project [in Sochi]," Nemtsov said. "We believe that it is our duty to bring the most scandalous instances of the embezzlement in connection with the Sochi Olympics to court. We very much hope in the public support."
Nemtsov said that his party has officially asked the chief of Russia's Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, to declassify all materials regarding investigations of the alleged embezzlement in Sochi. He also asked the chairman of Russia's Accounts Chamber, Sergei Stepashin, to give detailed information on the amounts allegedly stolen.
Nemtsov is currently a cochairman of the opposition Republican Party of Russia -- People's Freedom Party (RPR-Parnas).
Russia had originally announced in 2007 that the 2014 games would cost about $12 billion.
State auditors at Russia's Audit Chamber have repeatedly voiced concerns about the skyrocketing overruns at Sochi and have issued recommendations that prosecutors look into some of them.
At a price of $51 billion, the Sochi games will be the most expensive Olympics in history, winter or summer. In contrast, the 2012 London Summer Olympics cost $14.3 billion.
With additional reporting by AP