Opposition leader to be banned from leaving Russia: lawyer

7th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

One of Russia's most prominent Kremlin critics said Thursday he had been barred from leaving the country for running an unsuitably small correction to a piece attacking the authorities.

Former minister Boris Nemtsov told Russian media from Strasbourg where he was attending a human rights panel that he had learned of the decision by telephone Wednesday from his attorney.

Under the alleged ruling, Nemtsov would be banned from leaving the country for six months once he returns to Russia.

Nemtsov said the ruling stemmed from allegations he had published about Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's inner circle and a subsequent Moscow court defamation case.

"This is the first time in post-Soviet Russian history that a person was banned from travel for political reasons," he told the Kommersant business daily.

His comments came as lawmakers in the European Parliament prepared to vote on a resolution condemning Russia for its decision to bar a party co-headed by Nemtsov from December parliamentary elections.

A Federal Bailiff Service spokesman said its office never issued the travel ban. "The bailiffs issued no ruling limiting his travel abroad," the spokesman said.

He added that the claimant in the case -- billionaire gas trader Gennady Timchenko -- had the right to make his own appeal to the court handling the case and a decision may have theoretically come from there.

Nemtsov's attorney insisted that the travel restriction was real.

"I am holding this ruling in my hands right now, with a stamp, and it clearly states that Nemtsov is barred from leaving Russia for half a year," Interfax quoted Nemtsov lawyer Vadim Prokhorov as saying.

The dispute stems from a pamphlet Nemtsov co-authored in 2010 entitled "Putin. Results. 10 Years."

It contained allegations about Timchenko's relationship with Putin, which the businessman disputed, winning several decisions in Russian courts.

A Moscow judge earlier ordered Nemtsov to publish a correction. But the Kommersant business daily said the one that appeared in its March 26 edition was judged to have had the wrong headline.

Nemtsov has earned prominence in the West with his constant criticism of Putin but enjoys only marginal support at home.

© 2011 AFP

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