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Arsenal shareholder in defamation case against Russian opposition leader

A judge in the defamation case between Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and Arsenal Football Club shareholder Alisher Usmanov has struck down motions to summon Russia's prime minister to give evidence on his wealth.

Mr Usmanov, estimated to be worth £11.6 billion, has sued Mr Navalny over his investigation into Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's alleged secret wealth.

Mr Navalny, who made his name with a blog exposing official corruption, has published legal documents showing that the oligarch, along with several other Russian billionaires, transferred lucrative assets to a charity foundation run by Mr Medvedev's former classmate.

Mr Medvedev has denied any connection to the property while Mr Usmanov insisted that the transfer of the ownership of a luxurious mansion to the charity foundation was a bona fide business deal.

Street protests in dozens of Russian cities and towns in March triggered by the investigation were some of the most widespread in years.

The judge at the Moscow district court dismissed Mr Navalny's motions to summon Mr Medvedev and deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov to give evidence on the alleged connection between them and Mr Usmanov.

The judge also struck down Mr Navalny's motion to request the national property registry office to release the property deeds which he says prove the link.

"If tens of thousands took to the streets in Moscow, then Medvedev needs to respond to this," Mr Navalny told the court. "Medvedev should be held responsible for this, not Usmanov."

Mr Usmanov did not appear in court on Tuesday. Proceedings began cordially as Mr Navalny took a selfie with Mr Usmanov's lawyer, Genrikh Padva, one of Russia's best known lawyers who used to represent former jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Earlier this month the reclusive Mr Usmanov released a YouTube video dismissing Mr Navalny as a "loser" and concluded the 12-minute clip with "I spit on you".

A week later, the 63-year-old tycoon released another angry video, signing off with "I spit on you again".

Mr Usmanov's foray into video blogging attracted countless online memes playing on the apparent likeness of Mr Usmanov's body language to that of Don Carleone in The Godfather.

The oligarch, whose business empire spans from mining to media, heads the International Fencing Federation and is a minority shareholder in Premier League club Arsenal.

Forbes magazine earlier this year listed Mr Usmanov as Russia's fifth-richest man with an estimated fortune of £11.6 billion. Earlier this month, The Sunday Times published similar estimates.

AP

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