Russian billionaire and media tycoon Alexander Lebedev has been charged with hooliganism and battery in Russia after an appearance on a televised debate last year where he allegedly hit someone.
Owner of Britain’s Independent and Evening Standard newspapers, Lebedev could face up to five years in prison if he is convicted, Reuters reported.
According to Lebedev, the arrest is in retaliation to his comments in which he has criticized President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.
The 52-year-old was charged with the same offenses as the members from the punk rock group Pussy Riot who were jailed earlier this year. His offenses, hooliganism and assault, were “motivated by political, ideological, racial, national or religious hatred, or hatred of a particular social group,” BBCreports.
According to a Forbes magazine report in March, Lebedev is worth 1.1 billion euros.
He also owns a bank in addition to a campaigning Russian newspaper and is a rare case of a so-called oligarch in his country to speak out against the government.
Lebedev told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that he had upset the Kremlin while campaigning against the government’s corruption:
“I know the position of the president. .. He thinks it is true that I have been funding [the opposition], so I was violating rule No. 1 – if you have money you should not interfere [in politics].”
Most affluent Russians have kept from criticizing the Kremlin since the former oil mogul Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 when he challenged Putin by becoming involved in opposition politics.
“Khodorkovsky’s oil empire was broken up and sold off, and he is still in prison,” Reutersreported.