Russian opposition sues Putin for slander: leader

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Russia's opposition leaders said on Thursday said they were filing defamation suits against president-turned-premier Vladimir Putin who accused them of seeking to squander Russia's resources.

"This is nothing else but lies and slander," Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister under late president Boris Yeltsin turned opposition leader, told AFP.

"We demand from Putin an apology and a million rubles (32,600 dollars) in compensation," Nemtsov said.

"We intend to spend this million to print materials about corruption in Putin's circle," he added.

He said that the first lawsuit had already been sent to a court by mail and another one would be lodged next month.

During a marathon question-and-answer session with ordinary Russians last week, Putin was asked what Nemtsov and two other key opposition figures -- former MP Vladimir Ryzhkov and former deputy energy minister Vladimir Milov -- were after.

"What do they want? Money and power. They have been pulled away from the trough, they've spent all they had, now they would like to return and line their pockets.

"But I think if we allow them to do it they would not limit themselves to mere billions, they will sell off all of Russia," Putin told Russians during the phone-in session that lasted four-and-a-half hours.

He directly accused the opposition politicians of stealing "billions" together with self-exiled Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky.

Observers say Berezovsky, known as the country's top kingmaker in the 90s, had helped Putin ascend to power in the 1990s before falling out of favour with him.

© 2010 AFP

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