Russian court allows brawling millionaire to visit Disneyland

Moscow, June 1 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Russian media magnate Alexander Lebedev, facing trial for punching a flamboyant businessman during a TV talk show, has been allowed to undertake a trip, which includes visiting Disneyland in Paris.

Lebedev, 52, owns Britain’s The Independent daily and co-owns Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta. He was granted permission by a Moscow court Friday to temporarily leave Russia to attend charity events in Zambia and Ukraine, as well as a High Court session in London.

The billionaire, facing a charge of infliction of minor bodily harm but who was initially charged with battery and hooliganism, said he would also take his children to Disneyland because “they earned it for not acting like hooligans”.

Lebedev, a former KGB officer turned Kremlin critic, apparently punched a seated Sergei Polonsky, knocking him out of his chair, during the filming of a talk show for state-run channel NTV in 2011.

Polonsky, the former head of the Mirax Group construction firm, had accused Lebedev of spreading a rumor about a crack in the Moskva-City skyscraper his firm was building.

The initial charges came more than a year later, and the trial started earlier this month.

Lebedev’s supporters have denounced the trial as “political payback” from the Kremlin for the billionaire’s opposition activity, including fund-raising for anti-corruption lawyer Alexei Navalny.

If convicted, Lebedev faces up to five years behind bars.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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