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Playing The 'Navalny Card' To Combat Graft

An opposition activist uses an electronic device with a portrait of prominent anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny during a protest in central Moscow last week.
MOSCOW -- You've heard of MasterCard. But what about the "Navalny card"?

Opposition figure and anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny says he has teamed up with an unidentified Russian bank to issue a new debit card that will raise funds to fight graft.

One percent of every purchase made with the card will be donated by the bank to the nonprofit Fund for Fighting Corruption, which Navalny founded and which publishes the widely popular antigraft website.

Marketed under the slogan "1 Percent Toward Self-Respect," the card is due to be issued in July by a bank that is thus far refusing to reveal its identity, Russian media reports. As many as 4 million cards are expected to be issued.

In a promotional video on YouTube and on the website, the Fund for Fighting Corruption claims to have saved the Russian budget 40.4 billion rubles ($1.33 billion) by exposing various government kickback schemes.

"Road repair and maintenance in Russia are five times more expensive than in Finland. The authorities wanted to spend 4 billion rubles to replace paving stones in Moscow. The average bribe in Moscow is $3 million. Two industrial factories belong to the 22-year-old cousin of the governor of Krasnodar Krai," the promotional video says.

"One percent of all payments made on the Aleksei Navalny 'Rospil' bank card will be donated to the Fund for Fighting Corruption in Russia. The Rospil bank card: add 1 percent toward self-respect."

In addition to Rospil, the Fund for Fighting Corruption also operates the election-monitoring website Rosvybory.

'Don't Fight Corruption Without It'

Navalny, a 35-year-old lawyer who studied at Yale University in the United States, has long sought financing for his anticorruption efforts.

Aleksei Navalny speaks to opposition protesters in Moscow.
Aleksei Navalny speaks to opposition protesters in Moscow.
The daily "Vedomosti" reports that a number of high-profile figures in the arts and finance -- including the poet Dmitry Bykov; Boris Zimin, the son of the founder of VimpelCom; and Sergei Grechishkin, the managing partner of Alcantra Asset Management -- have said they intend to provide financing.

Speaking to Dozhd TV, Vladimir Ashurkov, the head of Navalny's fund, said that the fund and the bank came up with the idea jointly.

"Why won't we name the bank? The bank asked us not to and we are not trying to market the bank," Ashurkov said.

"The bank is simply providing us with its infrastructure. Many banks release various dual-branded cards," he added. "We came up with the idea. It seems to be that it is in demand in various sections of the population."

Navalny, who made his name as an anticorruption activist and became a leading member of the opposition, is currently serving a 15-day jail term for resisting arrest.

He was detained in central Moscow by dozens of riot police on May 8 as opposition activists walked through the capital wearing white ribbons, the symbol of opposition to President Vladimir Putin.