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Inteko threatens to sue Forbes Russia over "libel"

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MOSCOW, December 4 (RIA Novosti) - A construction and investment firm belonging to the wife of Moscow's mayor said Monday the December issue of Forbes Russia contains unverified information, and threatened to sue the magazine for libel.

The issue, carrying a seven-page article about Yelena Baturina, Russia's richest woman and the wife of the Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, and her company Inteko, was nearly scrapped after Baturina's representatives threatened to sue the publishers for misquoting her on the cover of the magazine last week.

"At the moment, Inteko is studying the text of the publication, but it is already obvious that some facts in the article have been distorted," the company said in a statement.

A leading Russian business daily, Kommersant, said Friday the article highlights how Baturina has reshaped her real estate business in view of her husband's departure from office in December 2007 so that Inteko can continue to profit from leasing land and real estate. The report cited figures in confirmation.

"Inteko will demand that Forbes identify the sources of the unsubstantiated information, and if they fail to name them, we will sue the magazine," Inteko said.

Editor-in-Chief Maksim Kashulinsky, who said he would leave if the publishers Axel Springer withdrew the issue, said Friday the scandal was over and the magazine would be released with its original content.

"Our publishers have finally realized that censorship is inadmissible, and that the magazine must be printed in the form it was initially sent to the printers," he said.

In their statement Monday, Inteko representatives accused the magazine of violating journalistic ethics and of failing to meet the "high standards of an independent, high quality press."

The cover of the magazine originally carried Baturina's picture and quoted her as saying: "I have guaranteed protection."

Inteko representatives said the quote was misrepresented, and Axel Springer agreed to correct it to read: "I have guaranteed protection as an investor."

Inteko also said the format of the publication was changed in violation of an agreement with the publishers, and demanded that facts which "do not correspond to reality" be excluded from the article.

Any further decision Forbes makes as to whether to publish the article or not remains up to the people in charge, Inteko said in the statement.

The first editor of Forbes Russia, Paul Klebnikov, was murdered in 2004 while leaving his Moscow office.

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