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Witness testifies in criminal case against Opposition activist Navalny

The court questioned, as a witness, Maria Gaidar who had been voluntary aide to Kirov region governor Nikita Belykh

MOSCOW, July 2 (Itar-Tass) - The Lenin district court of Kirov on Tuesday resumed the hearing of the criminal case against Opposition blogger Alexei Navalny and his suspected accomplice, former director of the Vyatka Timber Company /VLK/ Pyotr Ofitserov, accused of misusing Kirovles property. The court questioned, as a witness, Maria Gaidar who had been voluntary aide to Kirov region governor Nikita Belykh from 2009 through 2011.

She testified that advising was part of the duties of the aides who worked for Belykh on voluntary basis. They did not have the authority to make crucial decision. As for Kirovles, Gaidar confirmed that the governor had issued instructions to provide assistance to forestry and loss-making companies and combat corruption. The Kirovles issue was routinely on the agenda. At first, they discussed sales and then company restructuring, she said.

According to Gaidar, there was a personal and professional conflict between Navalny and Konstantin Arzamastsev, who was director of the state property department of the Kirov region. It was Arzamastsev who initiated the first audit of Kirovles. It was "absurd and unprofessional," she said.

As for Ofitserov, Gaidar said she had made acquaintance with him when she was a member of the SPS Party, which formed a bloc with Yabloko in the parliamentary election. Ofitserov was a Yabloko member. She explained that Ofitserov had not been personally invited to the region: "They invited those who could do something for the region; as I understand it, he just responded to the call."

Also, Gaidar said she never heard of Navalny's taking any presents from Ofitserov.

Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin had 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 with three-year probation. 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.

Navalny and Ofitserov denied wrongdoing.