Interview with a Russian Legal Crusader

Alexey-Navalny-007.jpgKudos to the Guardian for its lengthy interview with graft-fighting lawyer Alexei Navalny, who has made it his solo mission to uncover corruption within some of Russia’s largest companies, an objective with redoubtable consequences.  The indefatigable blogger has taken on the likes of tycoon Viktor Vekselberg, energy industry giants Transneft and Rosneft, and bank VTB.  Navalny discusses, in this excerpt, his ambitious new endeavor – RosPil:

Navalny’s latest project is RosPil, a website that uses hundreds of volunteers to comb through public documents on state tenders, a prime area of state corruption. He came up with the idea in October, after his exposure of a corrupt government tender led to its cancellation and the resignation of the state official charged with overseeing it. Just two weeks after launching the site, Navalny collected 4 million roubles (£84,000), a record sum in Russia.

“It’s become more fashionableto be in the opposition, because everyone sees that the country is goingto hell,” Navalny said. “The powers themselves understand that and knowit could all end at any moment, so it’s best to steal as fast as youcan.”

Navalny believes little will change until the Vladimir Putinregime falls. “Change cannot come about under this leadership. Thesepeople will never deny themselves billions of dollars. Sooner or latersomething will change and these documents we gather will be used so theywill all be put in jail.”

Although angry when talking about theregime, his campaign grew from selfish motives. After a law degree in1998 and working as a lawyer in a property development firm owned byShalva Chigirinsky, the now disgraced oligarch, Navalny began dabblingin the stock market. “I invested some of my money in blue chips andrather quickly realised they were paying no dividends,” he said. “At thesame time, you could look at the Forbes rich list and easily understandwhere the dividends were going.”

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