DERDENT, Russia (JTA) — Jewish staffers for the campaign of Moscow mayoral candidate Alexei Navalny denied reports that he praised the Holocaust.
“To my knowledge, he never made the statement attributed to him,” Maxim Katz, deputy director of the Navalny campaign for the Sept. 8 election, told JTA on Tuesday.
Katz, 29, a Moscow politician who lived in Israel for nine years, was responding to reports that circulated earlier this month that Navalny had raised a toast to the Holocaust during a recent reception in the Russian capital.
The report appeared on the European Jewish Press news website on Monday.
Leonid Volkov, the 32-year-old CEO of Navalny’s campaign and also Jewish, said the reports were “false and part of a smear campaign designed by our rivals to damage Navalny’s image precisely among reform-minded liberals who constitute a natural base of support for us.”
Navalny, a center-right blogger and corruption whistleblower turned opposition leader, is considered to be among the strongest of five challengers to incumbent Sergei Sobyanin of the ruling United Russia Party, who is seen as a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Yevgenia Albats, a writer for the New Times, wrote Tuesday on Facebook that Navalny never said the words attributed to him, adding it was “abominable and disgusting to even suggest this.”