Applause as cartoonist points finger at Putin over campaigner’s prison death

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A RUSSIAN cartoonist won loud applause at a usually politics-free awards ceremony when he suggested president Vladimir Putin shared responsibility for the death of an anti-corruption campaigner in a Moscow jail.

Mr Putin’s opponents frequently lambast him during protests and on the internet, but criticism of him is rare at mainstream cultural events.

Yuri Norshteyn broke that taboo when he criticised the president over jailed lawyer Sergei Magnitsky’s 2009 death.

Commenting on a previous speaker who had said Russia did not have enough doctors, Mr Norshteyn said: “Immediately, I linked this … with when Putin said Magnitsky died of heart failure. I think he died of a failure of heart on Putin’s part and on the part of the prison boss.”

The comment was a reference to Mr Putin’s statement, at a news conference in December, that Mr Magnitsky had “died not from torture, nobody tortured him, but from a heart attack”.

The Kremlin’s own human rights council has said he was probably beaten to death.

After his comments, the rest of Mr Norshteyn’s speech was drowned out by applause and shouts of “Bravo!” in a clip that had received nearly 290,000 You-Tube hits by yesterday afternoon.

Mr Magnitsky, 37, died after almost a year in jail on tax evasion and fraud charges that his colleagues said were fabricated by investigators he had accused of stealing £145 million from the state through fraudulent tax refunds. Nobody has been convicted of any crime in connection with his death.