Former Moscow mayor's ex-ally gets asylum in Lithuania
A former ally of disgraced Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov has been granted political asylum in neighbouring Lithuania because he would be in danger if he returned home, a lawyer said Friday.
Lawyer Aivaras Raisutis said that his client Yury Khardikov, who arrived in Lithuania last year, had Thursday formally been granted leave to remain in the Baltic state.
"The migration department identified a serious threat to him in Russia, so he was granted subsidiary protection for one year, which is a form of asylum," Raisutis told AFP.
Khardikov formerly ran the northern district of the Russian capital, but fled in the wake of accusations by Luzhkov's powerful wife Yelena Baturina that he had swindled a billion rubles (25 million euros, 35 million dollars).
Luzhkov became mayor of Moscow in 1992 and eventually established himself as one of Russia's most powerful regional bosses.
But he lost a political tug of war with the Kremlin and was fired by President Dmitry Medvedev in September.
Luzhkov and Baturina -- who became Russia's richest woman when he was in power -- have found themselves in the spotlight over their business dealings.
Despite the couple's fall from grace, Khardikov is still at risk from their associates, Raisutis said.
"The investigation was commissioned by Luzhkov and his wife and Luzhkov still has influence over law enforcement in Moscow," Raisutis claimed.
"Khardikov cannot expect a fair trial and there is a threat to his health and life in Russia," he said.
"Subsidiary protection means that Lithuania would not consider an extradition request from Russia."
Under Lithuanian law, such protection is granted to individuals who can show a well-founded fear of risks including torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or violation of their rights.
© 2011 AFP