Media magnate Lebedev asks to join 'Putin Front'

20th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russian businessman and newspaper proprietor Alexander Lebedev announced Friday that a campaign group he leads will ask to join a new political coalition being created by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

An anti-corruption campaign group headed by Lebedev, called Our Capital City, said it would apply to join the new coalition of political and social groups announced by Putin earlier this month.

"We are ready ... to support the People's Front created on Vladimir Putin's initiative," Lebedev was quoted as saying in the statement.

Lebedev, who owns British newspapers the Independent and the Evening Standard and co-owns liberal Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta with ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, has been an outspoken critic of Putin in the past and it was unclear why he wanted to join the movement.

"The leaders of United Russia have said the doors are open to all registered public organisations, ready to cooperate for Russia's benefit. Is a real fight against corruption not to Russia's benefit?" Lebedev said in the statement.

Putin said he wanted to create the All-Russia People's Front to join forces with his ruling United Russia party and offer "new ideas" in a bid to shore up his standing ahead of the December parliamentary elections

Some observers have said the creation of the broad coalition is a clear message from Putin to President Dmitry Medvedev that he wants to return to the post of head of state.

Like Putin, Lebedev served in the KGB security service, although he has said that the men met for the first time in 1998 and he is not a member of Putin's inner circle.

Lebedev has returned to the public eye recently with a whistleblowing video alleging that senior members of the FSB security service, the KGB's successor, waere involved in money-laundering.

This week he posted the professionally shot video briefly before pulling it, saying it was not a finished version, but a blogger posted it on YouTube.

The Moscow offices of Lebedev's own National Reserve Bank were raided by armed and masked police in November in a criminal probe.

In 2008, a Russian newspaper owned by Lebedev printed a story alleging Putin was to marry former gymnast and now lawmaker Alina Kabayeva, prompting Putin to criticise journalists for poking "snotty noses" into his personal life.

The report was never confirmed and the paper, Moskovsky Korrespondent, was later closed.

© 2011 AFP

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