MOSCOW, December 13 (RIA Novosti) – Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev’s National Reserve Bank has scrapped plans to issue debit cards branded with the name of Russian opposition blogger and anti-corruption fighter Alexei Navalny, Lebedev told Izvestia daily on Thursday.
Lebedev announced in summer his bank would support the new debit card project, which would donate 1 percent of all purchases to Navalny's RosPil fund, which campaigns to expose corruption inside the Russian government.
In an interview with Izvestia daily published on Thursday, Lebedev said he had grown disillusioned with Navalny and the blogger’s activity.
“I have not seen many results from Navalny’s anti-corruption work lately. Since the times of Transneft I can’t remember anything,” Lebedev said. Navalny accused Transneft's former management in November 2010 of multi-billion-dollar embezzlement during construction of the East Siberia–Pacific Ocean pipeline.
“Besides, it is unclear for what purpose we are collecting the money,” the billionaire said.
Navalny, who is a minority shareholder in a number of large Russian companies, has campaigned vociferously for greater transparency in Russian business practices.
The anti-corruption campaign has recently been stepped up by the Russian authorities themselves, who have launched large-scale probes into embezzlement in the Defense Ministry and an investigation into a fraud linked with the development of the Glonass satellite navigation system.
Therefore, this should be [President Vladimir] “Putin’s card” rather than Navalny’s, Lebedev argued.
The Russian tycoon also said there was no true opposition in the country because otherwise “all institutions would be at work and there would be independent mass media.”
Lebedev, a former KGB officer and one of the owners of opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, has previously been fiercely critical of the government. He claimed searches conducted in February this year at his National Reserve Bank were part of a vendetta by Russia's political establishment.