Charges brought against media mogul Alexander Lebedev for punching a fellow guest live on TV in 2011 are "politically motivated", he has claimed.
Lebedev, who owns the Evening Standard and Independent newspapers in the UK, has been charged with hooliganism in his home country of Russia for punching a rival business, but claims his anti-government work, which includes part ownership of investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta, is more to blame.
The billionaire has been charged with hooliganism and battery for punching rival businessman and property magnate Sergey Polonsky during a television debate in the country.
After a disagreement over something Polonsky said, Lebedev rose from his chair and struck Polonsky in the face, sending the fellow billionaire tumbling off his chair and off set.
Alexander Lebedev punched a guest live on television last year
"It's part of a campaign, and it's not to do with my businesses, even though that campaign is also ongoing," Lebedev said to The Independent. "This is either to do with Novaya investigations, or it's because they really think I am some kind of genuine clandestine opposition figure."
"I don't see any reason for anybody for bringing a case likt that unless they want to put you into prison, pushing you through the judiciary system which is, as we all know in Pussy Riot's or other cases, is nothing to do with justice," Lebedev told the BBC.
The charges are the same type that were brought against three members of the activist collective Pussy Riot, who were jailed in August this year for an anti-Putin demonstration in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.
Lebedev is one of few outspoken critics of the Putin regime in the country and the former KGB agent is an ally of Alexey Navalny, one of the leaders of the protest movement in the country.
Three members of the collective Pussy Riot were jailed for the same offence in August
The 52-year-old sponsored the Anti-Coruption Fund, run by Navalny, along with others to the tune of at least $135,000.
Lebedev's son Evgeny released a statement proclaiming his father's charges to be "extraordinarily disproportionate".
"My father has been targeted because of his determination to fight against corruption and to be a crusader for democracy in a country where this has not always been welcome," he said.
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