Kremlin activists caught red-handed in Photoshop smear
Pro-Kremlin activists have tried to smear Alexei Navalny, one of Russia's most prominent opposition leaders, by publishing a crudely doctored photograph of him to suggest he is being illicitly funded by a controversial anti-Kremlin oligarch.
In a sleight of hand used repeatedly by the Soviet authorities to support their own version of history, pro-Kremlin activists Photoshopped a picture of Mr Navalny to make it look as if he had met with and was being funded by Boris Berezovsky, a UK-based oligarch who is wanted in Russia on criminal charges.
Tens of thousands of copies of a newspaper carrying the fake photograph were handed out by activists wearing blue vests stating their loyalty to Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, in the Russian city of Ekaterinburg, in recent days.
The paper, which was designed to whip up support for Mr Putin ahead of a March 4 presidential election, held up the doctored photograph as proof that Mr Navalny had allegedly never hid the fact that he was bankrolled by the runaway oligarch.
That was a potentially damaging allegation as Mr Berezovsky has been portrayed as a crook in Russian state media for years, a charge he strongly denies.
The trick was quickly exposed as a lie on the internet however with the original photographer publishing the real undoctored picture of Mr Navalny standing next to a completely different oligarch, Mikhail Prokhorov, online.
The photographer said the picture, which was never published, had been stolen from Mr Navalny's hacked email account.
Mr Navalny, who has risen to prominence by using the internet to expose high level corruption, mocked the attempt to smear him by publishing the same photograph on his blog doctored to show him standing alongside Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, Vladimir Putin and even an alien.
Mr Navalny has emerged as one of anti-Kremlin opposition protestors' favourite leaders and spoke at a big rally in Moscow just before Christmas calling for Mr Putin to step down.