Talk to Al Jazeera

Alexander Lebedev: Standing up to Putin

In a country where few individuals dare to speak out, the Russian businessman is a rare exception.

From Syria to the United Nations to the streets of Moscow. The Putin government is taking sides and positions in current battles – unnerving many people and irritating foreign governments.

Critics accuse Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, of stopping at nothing to maintain his power. But many Russians see him as their best hope for dealing with new threats in an increasingly complex world.

He has introduced large fines for participants and organisers of illegal protests and a new law will force non-governmental groups to declare any funding from abroad and, if they accept any such funding, to label themselves as “foreign agents”. Opponents of the law say it will threaten the ability of these groups to criticise the government.

Few individuals dare to speak up.

But this man is an exception. Alexander Lebedev is one of Russia’s richest businessmen and worth an estimated $3bn. He once ran for mayor of Moscow, worked for the KGB and is part owner of the leading opposition newspaper in Russia, Novaya Gazeta. It was his journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, who was killed after publishing several articles critical of Putin’s government. He is also the owner of papers in the UK, including The Independent.

We sit down with Alexander Lebedev, a man who knows the inner workings of the Russian system, to discuss the future of democracy and where Moscow is taking the world.

He tells Talk to Al Jazeera: “Russia is much more European than it used to be …. But we still have a long way to go, and I sincerely think and hope that Putin will not lose the chance of becoming the biggest reformer who has ever existed in Russia.”

undefined This episode of Talk to Al Jazeera can be seen on Al Jazeera English at the following times GMT: Saturday, July 21: 0430; Sunday, July 22: 0830, 1930; and Monday, July 23: 1430.

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