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Russia24 March 2005

Damages which Kommersant must pay bank cut by 90 per cent

An arbitration court in Moscow yesterday slashed 90 per cent off the amount of libel damages which the liberal daily Kommersant was sentenced to pay the Alpha bank on 24 December. Kommersant editor Andrei Vasilyev said he was very relieved.

29 December 2004 Kommersant has to pay heavy damages for alleged slur on bank’s reputation

Russian version

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about a 27 December appeal court ruling that an arbitration tribunal was right to have convicted the independent daily Kommersant on 20 October of "harming the reputation" of the country’s second largest bank, Alpha. The appeal court reduced the damages award from 320.5 million roubles (8.5 millions euros) to 10 millions roubles (264,000 euros).

"The amount of the damages the daily has been ordered to pay is still exorbitant," the organisation said. "This conviction could foster a climate of intimidation for the Russian media and thereby set a dangerous precedent for press freedom."

The arbitration tribunal’s verdict on a series of Kommersant articles beginning 7 July during a liquidity crisis in the Russian banking sector was unprecedented in the history of the Russian news media

"Alpha Bank accuses us of lying but does not produce any evidence of this, so there has been moral wrong to Kommersant," the newspaper’s business editor, Pavel Filenkov, said. "We have taken out a loan to pay this exorbitant fine, but we will go to the end in the legal battle : court of cassation, supreme court and, if necessary, the European court of human rights. In the latter instance, we are sure of winning and Alpha Bank would not go that far."

The banking crisis began to bite on 6 July when Gouta Bank closed its teller windows because of a "lack of liquidity," causing a panic among its clients. The next day Kommersant ran a story headlined "Banking crisis reaches the street," in which it said Alpha Bank’s clients were also mobbing its teller windows out of fear of a banking crisis like the one that hit Russia in 1998. Alpha Bank said that, because of the report, it had to impose a temporary 10 per cent levy on withdrawals in order to cope with the resulting panic.

Russian version

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