Lebedev Commits to People’s Front

161003103.jpg‘Is a real fight against corruption not to Russia’s benefit?’  The words of Alexander Lebedev, known best as the owner of the Independent and Novaya Gazeta newspapers and the frequent victim of unwanted police raids on his National Reserve Bank offices by FSB officers, on his pledge that the Our Capital movement which he heads will join Vladimir Putin’s All Russia United Front.  Given that the front has widely been perceived of as a vehicle for strengthening the hegemony of the ruling powers, some might consider it an odd move.  From the Guardian:

Yet he failed to explain why, after years of positioning himself as an opposition figure, he had decided to side with the powers that be.

“I don’t think it’s possible to continue the banking business,” Lebedev said in an interview with Gazeta.ru, Russia’s most respected online news portal. “Within two months, I plan to leave the field and become an ordinary citizen.” The tycoon posted a statement on his website on Friday saying his Our Capital movement had decided to join the All-Russia People’s Front created by Putin earlier this month.

The move comes after pressure has been building onNational Reserve Bank, the jewel in Lebedev’s empire. Its headquarterswere raided by masked police late last year, allegedly as part of aninvestigation into fraud at a small failed bank acquired by NRB in 2008.Lebedev has blamed the pressure on his public statements.

Theannouncement came one day after Lebedev released a video detailing theraid and alleged corruption by the Federal Security Service officersinvolved. He later said the video had been uploaded to his website “bymistake” and would be re-released once it was finished.

Lebedev has been allowed to acquire great wealth in Russia despite hisoft-critical statements of the country’s leadership. Novaya Gazeta, thenewspaper he co-owns with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, isRussia’s leading opposition newspaper. He once proposed outfitting itsjournalists with guns, following the latest in a line of high-profilekillings of journalists at the paper.