New Politkovskaya charges expected

Russian investigators have marked the fifth anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya‘s murder by announcing that they will file new charges against previously arrested suspects.

Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, a native of Chechnya, is accused of organising the shooting of the investigative journalist who was critical of Vladimir Putin‘s administration.

New charges against the suspected hitman, Rustam Makhmudov, and several others are expected too.

Makhmudov’s two brothers and former Moscow police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov stood trial on charges of helping to stage the killing, but a court found them not guilty in 2009.

The Russian supreme court overruled the acquittal and has sent the case back to prosecutors. Gaitukayev is an uncle of the Makhmudovs.

Politkovskaya was gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on 7 October 2006.

Investigators also said that Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, who was a senior police officer at the time of the killing, helped to track Politkovskaya’s movements before she was shot.

The news has been welcomed by Politkovskaya’s newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, which is co-owned by Alexander Lebedev, owner of The Independent and London Evening Standard in Britain.

But the paper also lamented the slow progress on finding the person who ordered the killing.

Politkovskaya was killed on Putin’s birthday, fuelling speculation about the involvement of senior officials in the Kremlin being responsible.

Source: AP/Washington Post

Alexander Lebedev faces charges of hooliganism over chatshow punch-up


Alexander Lebedev hits Sergei Polonsky on a Russian TV show Link to this video

Russian prosecutors have launched a criminal case against the media tycoon Alexander Lebedev on charges of hooliganism for punching a fellow billionaire on a television programme.

Lebedev was being investigated for hooliganism after a preliminary investigation found that the incident “brought bodily harm” to Sergei Polonsky, the Moscow investigative committee of the general prosecutor’s office said in a statement posted on its website. If charged, Lebedev could face up to two years in prison, Russian news agencies said.

Lebedev, owner of the Independent and the London Evening Standard, punched the property developer during a chatshow on the NTV channel. Polonsky had been arguing with guests on the show when he said he was “already worn out from the desire to give [him] a punch in the chops”, gesturing to Lebedev. Lebedev jumped from his seat and threw punches at Polonsky, knocking him backwards off his chair.

After the attack Russia‘s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, said the incident amounted to “hooliganism”.

Lebedev later defended his actions, while Polonsky said he would consider legal action.

Polonsky, the former owner of Mirax Group, one of Russia’s biggest property developers, posted photographs online showing a cut on his arm and a tear in his trousers after the brawl.

Lebedev learned of the case via the committee’s statement and has not been contacted by officials. He made no comment on Tuesday but published a copy of the announcement on his blog along with definitions of hooliganism. He later published a letter to the committee in which his lawyer asks for a copy of all relevant materials.

The criminal case came less than two weeks after Alexander Shokhin, the head of a powerful business lobby, asked Putin what he thought of the fight. “We have a front, but we do not attack anyone,” Putin said, referring to his political movement, the All-Russia People’s Front. “They do not have a front, but they punch each other. It’s hooliganism. Do you have an ethics committee in the RSPP [lobby]?”

Lebedev, a former KGB agent, has maintained peaceful ties with Putin despite his co-ownership of the opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper and his criticism of local Moscow authorities. Last month, Lebedev sought to sue the Federal Security Service, the main successor agency to the KGB, for 350m roubles (£7m) in damages to his business reputation when its agents raided his bank during an investigation last year. A Moscow court later threw out the suit.

Billionaire brawl: police open case over TV assault

Police have opened a criminal case against a Russian tycoon who is charged with hooliganism during a talk show aired on Russian TV. Aleksandr Lebedev landed a left hook on fellow billionaire Sergey Polonsky following a heated debate.

­Lebedev also faces charges of causing bodily harm to real estate developer Polonsky.  The two super-rich businessmen came to blows after a difference of opinion on the global financial crisis ended up in a fist-fight.

Aleksandr Lebedev, the owner of two British newspapers, punched Sergey Polonsky during the course of a pre-recorded TV discussion program on one of Russia’s main channels. The show was aired later on September 16th.

The owner of The Independent and London Evening Standard and co-owner of Russia’s Novaya Gazeta said he was defending himself, claiming he thought he was going to be attacked first.

He maintained that Polonsky, a real estate developer, had been overly aggressive during the discussion.

Viewers clearly heard Polonsky saying he wanted to land a blow on Lebedev moments before he himself was assaulted.

The brawl has been denounced by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who called the incident “hooliganism”.

With one punch Lebedev becomes a real media mogul…

I’ve no idea about the ins and outs of the squabble between newspaper publisher Alexander Lebedev and another Russian tycoon, Sergei Polonsky.

But Lebedev’s televised assault on Polonsky (see above) does much to counter the prevailing view of him as a rather earnest and grey figure.

In a couple of seconds of spontaneous action Lebedev has joined the colourful ranks of maverick media moguls.

He has been regarded as something of a man of mystery in Britain, mostly due to his once having been a KGB officer and, partially, because of his tendency to frustrate interviewers who ask direct questions by responding with lengthy, cryptic monologues.

Now, in a moment of TV history, the publisher of The Independent and the London Evening Standard has created an entirely new PR image.

He has instantly become an altogether more fascinating chap, standing four-square in the tradition of Hearst, Northcliffe, Beaverbook, Maxwell and Black. Not that any of them got so physical.

Lebedev explained his sudden attack on Polonsky by saying:

“I had to listen to his very aggressive behaviour for an hour and a half. He insulted everyone in the room.”

I’m not a fan of such behaviour, but sometimes if you are threatened verbally and physically you have to neutralise the threat to the best of your ability, without harming the other person. That’s what I did.”

Clearly, Lebedev is now a man to be reckoned with, and the incident gives a glimpse of the steel that has seen him stand up to the Russian authorities, not least through his part ownership of the Moscow paper, Novaya Gazeta.

Note the comment from Dmitri Rogozin, Russia‘s representative to Nato, who tweeted: “Nice one, Lebedev, although fighting is not good. He deserved it. You’re a real man.”

A real newspaperman, for sure.

[Full disclosure: I write a column for the London Evening Standard]

Sources: Guardian/Independent/BBC/YouTube

Alexander Lebedev in Russian TV fight

Alexander Lebedev, owner of the Independent and the London Evening Standard, strikes Russian property tycoon Sergei Polonsky on a TV chat show after feeling insulted. Both men appeared as guests on the show about the global financial crisis that was being recorded in Moscow for the NTV channel

Tycoons Brawl: Strike it Rich (video)

The audience at a Russian talk show got more than their money’s worth. Two super-rich tycoons came to blows after a difference of opinion on the global financial crisis ended up in a fistfight.

­Aleksandr Lebedev, the owner of two British newspapers, punched fellow billionaire Sergey Polonsky during the recording of a discussion on one of Russia’s main channels.

The owner of The Independent and London Evening Standard said he was defending himself, claiming he thought he was going to be attacked first.

He claimed Polonsky, a real estate developer, had been overly aggressive during the discussion.

In a short preview posted by the NTV Channel on its website, Polonsky criticized the other guests of the show, saying their comments, as well as remarks from the studio audience, put him “in a mind to punch someone’s face.”

Just moments afterward, Lebedev inquired whether the remark was directed at him.

And as the other businessman attempted to calm him, the media tycoon sent him sprawling from his chair, punching him twice.  

The NTV channel broadcast the show Sunday night.

Russian billionaires come to blows

In his skinny jeans and basketball boots, he may appear to be the model of a modern media mogul. But Alexander Lebedev, the billionaire owner of the Independent and London Evening Standard, has shown a flash of his old KGB steel after punching a businessman in the face during a Russian television show.

Lebedev, 51, knocked Sergei Polonsky, a property developer, from his chair as both men were appearing as guests on a show about the global financial crisis that was being recorded in Moscow for the NTV channel on Friday.

The incident took place when Polonsky, a wealthy real estate developer, lambasted his fellow pundits and gestured at Lebedev saying: “I’m already worn out from the desire to give [him] a punch in the chops.” In response, Lebedev said: “Well, try it” and sprang to his feet.

Lebedev was persuaded by the host to take his seat, but seconds later he swung from a sitting position and hit Polonsky with a right cross as the latter began criticising him again.

A second blow which did not connect cleanly sent the developer tumbling backwards in his chair to the floor.

The newspaper owner then advanced across the stage in a hunched, pugilist’s pose and stopped in front of Polonsky, saying: “Go on then, or are you waiting for me to take off my glasses?”

There were gasps of shock and the host called security guards as the two faced off. A stricken-looking Polonsky, 38, the former owner of Mirax Group, a large developing company that went bankrupt earlier this year, did not respond for some moments before mumbling: “I’m in shock.” Both men were persuaded to calm down.

Polonsky is well known for his brash statements, in particular saying in 2008 that anyone without a billion dollars is a “loser” and “those who don’t have a billion, can go to hell”.

During the recording of the NTV show he reportedly complained to Lebedev for drawing public attention to a crack in a skyscraper Polonsky was building in Moscow.

Both men commented on the confrontation on social media over the weekend. Polonsky posted a picture of a scratch on his arm and of the seat of his jeans with a tear in it. He said he had requested footage and would consider legal action against Lebedev.

“NTV has promised to give a full copy of the programme for a court action,” Polonsky wrote on Twitter. “How disgusting and repulsive it all is.”

Lebedev, who served as an officer in the KGB and Russia’s foreign intelligence service, played down the incident in interviews with local media.

He told a news agency he had asked Polonsky to confirm whom he wanted to punch: “I said, ‘Do you mean me?’ He replied, yes. After which I neatly neutralised that absolutely unfounded threat.”

Lebedev also said Polonsky had “behaved like a street hooligan”, been rude to several guests and conducted himself with “real aggression” during the recording of the show.

“I grew up in Soviet Moscow and unfortunately, as a youth, took part in many such incidents,” he wrote in his blog, saying that normally you do not get a warning when you’re about to be hit.

“In a critical situation, you don’t choose: I don’t see any reason to get hit first if you know it’s coming.”

In a sharp aside, Lebedev added: “Now he’s showing his ripped trousers, which is rather difficult to comment on. He got it in the face, but he holds up trousers with a hole in the backside. Strange.”

Lebedev joined the KGB in the early 1980s and trained at its spy school, the Red Banner Institute, where he most likely received instruction in hand-to-hand combat.

He transferred to London in 1987 and worked there as a foreign intelligence officer until 1992.

He is a keen sportsman and swims or pumps iron every day in one of several gyms at his home and offices.

The two men received expressions of support online, with Lebedev appearing to gain the most.

Dmitri Rogozin, Russia’s representative to Nato, tweeted: “Nice one, Lebedev, although fighting is not good. He deserved it. You’re a real man.”

TV tantrums

The clash between Alexander Lebedev and Sergei Lobonsky Polonsky is the latest in series of tantrums and bust-ups caught by TV cameras.

John Prescott’s left jab at an egg-throwing protester during the 2001 election campaign overshadowed the launch of Labour’s manifesto when TV cameras captured the then deputy prime minister – and former amateur boxer – landing a punch on a farm worker in Rhyl, north Wales.

The 29-year-old protester’s girlfriend said of Prescott’s target afterwards: “He is a countryside contractor from Denbigh, a placid lad who has never been in trouble.”

Earlier this year, Wendi Deng’s slapdown of the protester who threw a foam pie at her husband, Rupert Murdoch, while he was being questioned by a parliamentary select committee over phone hacking was beamed across the world. Commentators celebrated her vitality and dubbed her “tiger woman” and “Charlie’s Angel”.

Meanwhile, former prime minister Gordon Brown showed he was not one to be messed with after an unhappy interview with Adam Boulton on Sky News. He was pictured glowering menacingly at the journalist before storming from his chair, refusing any goodbyes.

Other famous bust-ups include Grace Jones, who attempted to beat up talkshow host Russell Harty live on TV in 1981 after he “provoked her” by apparently turning his back on her, and singer-songwriter Björk, who was pictured flying into a rage at an airport in Thailand in 1996, at a British journalist who she claimed had been pestering her for four days.

A year later, chatshow presenter Clive Anderson enraged the Bee Gees on his BBC2 programme. Anderson revealed, without warning, that in the 1960s the group had been called Les Tosseurs. The Australian disco kings stormed off stage when Anderson concluded: “Well, you’ll always be tossers to me.”

Damien Pearse