Opposition campaigner attacks Putin over Sochi costs

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[January 27, 2014]  MOSCOW (Reuters)  A leading opponent of President Vladimir Putin on Monday criticized what he said was huge overspending on the Winter Olympics and accused Russian officials and businessmen of making big profits from the Games.

The report, culling information from government budgets and data from companies involved in construction for the Olympics, was the latest by the opposition to pour scorn on a project on which Putin has staked his personal and political prestige.

Anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny, who also led protests in Moscow against Putin the winter of 2011-12, said the information challenged Putin's figure for spending on the Games, which open in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on February 7.

"Russia's overall expenses have already reached $50 billion, which makes the Russian Olympics five times more expensive than the Vancouver (Winter) Olympics (in 2010)," said the report.

"Officials and businessmen also took part in the Games and turned them into a source of income."

In an interview earlier this month, Putin said Russia had spent some $6.5 billion roubles on preparations for the Games. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak last year said some $50 billion would be spent on Games infrastructure.

Subcontractors say that corruption has been endemic in the lead up to the Sochi Olympics and opposition figures have accused contractors and subcontractors of siphoning off more than half of the money allocated to the Games.

Putin has dismissed suggestions that there has been large-scale corruption surrounding the Games.

(Reporting by Thomas Grove; editing by Timothy Heritage)

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