News Column

Police Raid Russian High-tech Hub

April 19, 2013

Russian investigators on Thursday raided the Skolkovo foundation, the country's showcase innovation hub founded under former president Dmitry Medvedev, and questioned its billionaire leader.

The five-hour raid in the foundation's offices in a glass tower in central Moscow was officially aimed at solving an embezzlement case against a former Skolkovo senior manager, but is likely to increase pressure on Medvedev, who as prime minister has faced a recent barrage of criticism.

The Skolkovo project envisages a Silicon Valley-style technology centre on the outskirts of Moscow. It is closely associated with Medvedev, who initiated it as part of a modernisation drive during his presidency.

However, the former head of state has been the target of a political smear campaign since he swapped jobs with President Vladimir Putin last year.

The Investigative Committee, a powerful government body linked to hardliners opposed to Medvedev's liberal stance, said in a statement that officers confiscated documents related to an ongoing corruption investigation.

In February, investigators opened a criminal investigation into two of Skolkovo's managers, including former finance director Kirill Lugovtsev, whom they accused of pocketing 24 million rubles (800,000 dollars) of state funds.

Viktor Vekselberg, a prominent businessman and one of the world's wealthiest people, heads the foundation and was informed prior to the searches, the committee said on their website.

Vekselberg complained that staff were herded into a meeting room during the investigation, the Interfax news agency reported.

"We always cooperated with police and therefore we were surprised over how the raid was conducted," Skolkovo spokesman Roman Shcherbakov said in a statement.

The accusations comes amid an anti-corruption campaign launched by Putin last year.

A video leaked to a Kremlin-friendly news site on Wednesday showed Putin threatening a group of ministers and governors to fire them if the quality of their work does not improve.

The video was widely seen as an affront by Putin against Medvedev, as it was published just one hour before the prime minister delivered his first annual address to parliament.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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