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The Lenin district court of Kirov began to questions witnesses for the prosecution in the criminal case against Alexei Navalny

April 25, 2013, 14:13 UTC+3

Former director told court Vyatka Timber Company was set up at Opposition activist's initiative

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MOSCOW, April 25 (Itar-Tass) – The Lenin district court of Kirov on Thursday began to questions witnesses for the prosecution in the criminal case against Opposition blogger Alexei Navalny and his suspected accomplice, former director of the Vyatka Timber Company /VLK/ Port Ofitserov, accused of misusing property of the Kirovles company.

Former Kirovles director Vyacheslav Opalev was the first to be questioned. Earlier, a court had given him a four-year suspended sentence for abetting the crime.

"I don't feel enmity toward the defendants; I have no reasons to give false testimony against them," Opalev said before the court proceeded to question him.

Answering the prosecutor's questions, the witness explained that the VLK had been set up at Navaly's initiative.

"VLK was set up at Navalny's initiative; I know it for sure. We had negotiations with him," the former director said.

He added that it was Navalny who had introduced him to Ofitserov.

Earlier reports said the verdict for Navalny may be announced in June.

The hearings will be held on April 24-26, May 15-16, May 20-22 and May 29-30. Among the witnesses for the prosecution is Kirov region governor Nikita Belykh.

The defendants asked to be allowed to testify at the end of the trial.

On Wednesday, the court questioned Pavel Smertin, a representative of the Kirovles company which is an injured party in the case.

Navalny had pleaded not guilty to the charges. "I do not acknowledge my guilt; I don't understand the charges," he stated.

Smertin said Kirovles would not file claims against Navalny and Ofitserov until the case had been reviewed on the merits.

He told the court he had personally known Navalny since 2009, when he was an aide to Kirov region governor Nikita Belykh. Kirovles was in the red in 2009, and at present, it is bankrupt, Smertin said.

He said he had tried to explain to the Kirovles administration that Navalny had no authority to run the company as he was government advisor on voluntary basis. The contract between Kirovles and the Vyatka Timber Company had been forced, and absolutely disadvantageous to the company.

"We agree with the charges brought against Navalny and Ofitserov; we have no reasons to doubt the investigator's statements, but it is up the court to ascertain the precise sum of damage and culpability of the defendants," Smertin said.

Investigative Committee /SK/ spokesman Vladimir Markin told Tass that Navalny, as an advisor to the Kirov region governor, "arranged the theft of Kirovles company by entering in collusion with Vyatka Timber Company director Pyotr Ofitserov and Kirovles director general Vyacheslav Opalev."

The SK believes that more than 10,000 cubic meters of timber were stolen in the period from May through September 2009, causing a 16-million-rouble damage to the regional budget.

On December 24, 2012, Kirov's Lenin district court gave Opalev a four-year suspended sentence. Opalev had pleaded guilty and signed a plea bargain agreement. "He gave detailed testimony regarding the circumstances of the crime committed in complicity with Navalny," the SK said.

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