Russian Internet CEOs back protest leader Navalny
A group of 37 heads of Internet companies on Wednesday publicly backed opposition leader and outspoken Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who is standing for Moscow mayor while facing prison for fraud.
The 37 entrepreneurs heading sites for Internet commerce, recruitment and media released a manifesto backing Navalny, a blogger who exposes high-level state corruption and a fearless critic of President Vladimir Putin who coined the slogan "Putin is a thief!"
Navalny on his blog compared their decision openly to back the anti-Kremlin opposition to the financing of the opposition by the head of Yukos oil company Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has been imprisoned since 2003.
The manifesto says the business people have signed a "social contract" with Navalny, backing him with their "reputations and financial, organisational and other resources," because they expect him to create a fairer system for business.
"We expect from Navalny protection of the rule of law, support for independent courts and real accountability of state officials to society," said the manifesto published on Slon.ru business news site.
Among the signatories were the two heads of Sports.ru, a major sports news site, Dmitry Navosha and Ilya Saltanov and the founder of Kinopoisk, a film industry database similar to the US IMDb.com, Vitaly Tatsii, as well as the founders of Wikimart.ru online store, Kamil Kurmakayev and Maxim Faldin.
On his blog, Navalny hailed "a most important and absolutely momentous political event."
Navalny, 37, a charismatic lawyer who is waging a fierce campaign on the streets of the capital with the slogan "Change Russia, start with Moscow", was last month convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to five years in a penal colony.
A higher court temporarily released him the next day in a surprise decision apparently due to his candidacy, but it is unclear if or when he will be sent back to prison.
The latest opinion poll by VTsIOM state polling agency released this week found that nine percent of Muscovites would back Navalny, while 55 percent backed incumbent Sergei Sobyanin, who was appointed directly by the Kremlin.
© 2013 AFP