MOSCOW, November 25 (RIA Novosti) – Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev expects he “probably will” go to prison over his involvement in a brawl on Russian TV earlier this year, his son Yevgeny Lebedev said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday.
Alexander Lebedev was charged in September with hooliganism, “motivated by political, ideological, racial, national or religious hatred, or hatred of a particular social group,” after punching another businessman in the face during a heated row on TV. He faces up to seven years jail if convicted.
Yevgeny Lebedev also said he feared his father could be the victim of a contract killing while he is behind bars in Russia’s notoriously violent penal system, by “some sinister elements that he’s crossed in the past with his anti-corruption campaign.”
Russia’s prison system would be “an easy place for somebody to be taken out,” he said.
“We believe there’s been a contract taken out on his head,” Yevgeny Lebedev claimed. “I really hope the government in Russia would pay attention to this because if something happens to him, of course, they would be the ones to blame, even if they don’t have anything do to with it,” he added.
Alexander Lebedev owns two British newspapers, a 15 percent stake in Russia’s largest airline Aeroflot, and is also owner of Russia’s Novaya Gazeta, a campaigning investigative daily that is fiercely critical of the government.
The former KGB officer has been critical of the government and claims searches conducted in February this year at his National Reserve Bank are part of a vendetta by Russia’s political establishment.
In August this year, he said he was keen to sell his stake in Aeroflot and dispose of his business assets in Russia because of what he called a campaign of persecution.
“I simply have no other choice, because over the past three years, my business was being purposefully and deliberately destroyed by Directorate K of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Economic Security Service of Russia,” Lebedev said then in a blog post.