Russian Tycoon Challenges Opposition Leader In YouTube Video
Published May 18th, 2017
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov on Thursday launched a video attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny, shortly before the trial in Usmanov vs. Navalny defamation case was to begin.
Navalny, the driving force behind massive anti-corruption protests that swept through Russia in March, has released a documentary about the alleged secret wealth of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Navalny published legal documents showing that Usmanov along with several other Russian billionaires transferred lucrative assets to a charity foundation run by Medvedev's former classmate.
Medvedev has denied any connection to the property while Usmanov insisted that the transfer of the ownership of the mansion to the charity foundation was a bona fide business deal.
As if mimicking Navalny, a popular video blogger, Usmanov on Thursday released a YouTube video in which he dismissed Navalny as a "loser" and a "failed businessman." Usmanov, who rarely talks to the press, referred to Navalny with the familiar "ty" pronoun and concluded the 12-minute clip by saying, "I spit on you."
"You will have to answer to me for this anyway, Lyosha," Usmanov said, using the short form of Navalny's first name, in the video. "You should have apologized and lived in peace because someone like you would never ever be able to prove that I'm a criminal, that I'm a thief."
Russian social media on exploded with rapture, producing countless memes playing on the apparent likeness of Usmanov's body language to that of Don Carleone in "The Godfather" as well as Usmanov's phrase: "Unlike you, Lyosha, I live in happiness."
But Maria Zakharova, media-savvy spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, said on Facebook later on Thursday that Usmanov's YouTube video "will be studied "at universities by rhetoric and PR specialists" and lauded Usmanov for a "man's" response.
Usmanov's business empire spans from mining assets to media. He has a majority share in VKontakte, Russia's most popular social media network with 270 million accounts, and other online assets. The 63-year-old tycoon, who started out with a plastic bags business, heads the International Fencing Federation and is a minority shareholder in the Arsenal football club in the English Premier League.
Forbes magazine earlier this year listed Usmanov as Russia's fifth-richest man with an estimated fortune of billion. Earlier this month, Britain's Sunday Times published similar estimates.
Usmanov spends most of his time in London, and says he is no longer a resident of Russia for tax purposes because his position at the Fencing Federation requires his presence abroad.