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Death of Russian lawyer tests Medvedev's anti-corruption pledge

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"Medvedev had to act because the wave of public protest was getting too high," says Yevgeny Ikhlov, an expert with the Moscow based "For Human Rights" public movement. "Magnitsky's death just crossed out everything Medvedev has said and written about the need to create a state based on human rights and law in Russia. It looks like it's all just words."

Magnitsky's case is a tangled and painful tale but one that, experts say, sheds light on many unpleasant sides of contemporary Russian reality.

As a partner in the Moscow law firm Duncan Firestone, Magnitsky represented William Browder, head of Heritage Capital, one of Russia's leading investment funds. Mr. Browder was accused by authorities of evading over $3 million in taxes in 2002.

The tax evasion case was leveled against Browder after he had accused senior police officials of being involved in the theft of nearly $230 million in state funds.

Browder, who lives in London, was barred from entering Russia in 2005 on "national security" grounds. He had long been a thorn in the side of powerful Russian business interests due to his public advocacy for minority shareholder rights and greater transparency in huge Russian corporations in which Hermitage held stakes, including Gazprom and the state-connected oil giant Surgutneftegaz.

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