10:02 Apr. 12, 2016
Russian TV acusses opposition leader in being a West's paid agent
Russian state TV says it has exposed Kremlin foe Aleksei Navalny as a paid agent of the West. Navalny and his allies in the opposition say they have exposed the program as a sloppy hit-job full of fabricated "evidence."
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A 15-minute excerpt of what Rossia-1 television billed as a piece of investigative journalism accused Navalny of being an agent recruited by William Browder, a former investor in Russia who is now a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, on behalf of British intelligence.
Senior state media executive Dmitry Kiselyov included the preview of the program, which is to be broadcast in full on April 13, in his Sunday night current-affairs program Vesti Nedeli on April 10:
Describing the allegations as "pure fantasy," Navalny said on April 11 that he intends to file a defamation suit -- his first against a media organization. He said the program took a state-media campaign against Putin's opponents to "new heights."
The purported evidence underlying some of the assertions has drawn ridicule online, with activists and observers questioning the authenticity of what are said to be leaked MI6 and CIA documents. Among other things, they cite the suspiciously clumsy English in those texts, incongruous dates, and voices in tapped phone calls that don't sound at all like those they are alleged to be.
The Rossia-1 clip features an all-star cast of Kremlin bugbears.
It begins with the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky, a onetime Kremlin insider who became one of Putin's most vocal opponents from exile in Britain.
It features Sergei Sokolov, a man the Rossia-1 excerpt says was Berezovsky's former chief security guard, saying that computer servers containing evidence incriminating Navalny -- an anticorruption crusader who is serving two suspended sentences on financial-crimes charges that rights groups and Kremlin critics say were trumped up -- were brought to Russia.
The program claims to chronicle ties between Navalny and Browder, who it asserts is a British agent code-named "Solomon," since 2007. It also says Navalny was given the code name "Freedom" and calls him a player in what it claims was a CIA operation, dubbed "Quake," that was first drafted in 1986 to "change the constitutional and political system in Eastern Europe and the U.S.S.R."
The clip goes on to say that Britain's MI6 funneled money to Navalny through the Moscow Helsinki Group, Russia's oldest human rights organization. Lyudmila Alekseyeva, its widely respected head, has strongly denied that assertion.