Court Rules Against The Times in Prokhorov Suit

A Moscow court on Tuesday ruled against The Moscow Times in a defamation case filed by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, upholding its earlier order for the newspaper to publish a retraction and pay a fine of 1,000 rubles.

The Moscow Arbitration Court did not explain why it rejected The Moscow Times' appeal of its Oct. 22 ruling. A written copy of its decision is expected to be released in a few days.

Moscow Times publisher Ekaterina Son said the newspaper's lawyers would wait to read the ruling but would most likely file an appeal to a higher court. The next court is the Constitutional Court.

Prokhorov sued his former business partner Vladimir Potanin and United Press, the publisher of The Moscow Times, in July over an interview in which Potanin told The Moscow Times that Prokhorov had "promised" to sell a stake in Norilsk Nickel to him and billionaire Alisher Usmanov and to buy his stake in Polyus Gold, "but he avoided doing this."

Moscow Times reporter Nadia Popova, who took the interview with Potanin in April, was later added to the lawsuit.

Prokhorov's lawyer told the court in October that the phrase "promised but avoided doing this" paints Prokhorov as "an unreliable partner," damaging his reputation in business circles.

Potanin's lawyers have argued that the disputed phrase in the interview was in fact true because Prokhorov had proceeded to sell his stake in Norilsk Nickel to Oleg Deripaska's RusAl in April in violation of the protocol.

Potanin has also been ordered to pay a fine of 1,000 rubles.