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Court orders environmental regulator to pay moral damages -1

(Update, adds Mitvol's statement in paragraph 7)

MOSCOW, August 16 (RIA Novosti) - A Moscow court has rejected an appeal by a senior environmental official against a court ruling ordering him to pay the Moscow Region governor $400 in moral damages, a spokesman said Thursday.

Regional Governor Boris Gromov argued in a suit that his reputation had been damaged by an article in the Moskovskaya Pravda newspaper.

The paper quoted Oleg Mitvol, a deputy head of the Russian environmental regulator, who presided over a series of high-profile probes, as saying Gromov had misappropriated budget funds and illegally acquired land.

On June 15, the court fined Mitvol 10,000 rubles ($390) and the newspaper 100,000 rubles ($3,900). The verdict also said the paper had to publish a retraction within five days.

Gromov's lawyers had asked the court to order Mitvol to publish a retraction of his statement in the Moscow newspaper and pay 50 million rubles ($1.91 million) in damages.

After the court's announcement, Mikhail Mazhirin, a lawyer for Mitvol, said he would recommend that his client appeal the decision with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

"I have already spoken with the people who will represent my interests in the European Court, and if we win, the (Moscow) court's decision will be rendered illegal and I will be compensated," Mitvol said, adding that he was not surprised by the court ruling.

Mitvol, the deputy head of the Federal Service for the Oversight of Natural Resources, is known for his environmental investigations into major energy projects and brutal attacks on the illegal construction of buildings in protected environmental zones.

He has also overseen inspections and the inventory of villas in the Moscow Region, which revealed numerous violations involving the illegal seizure of state-owned land to build elite cottages.

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