Russia demands US explains oligarch's visa denial
Russia said Tuesday it is awaiting an explanation from the United States as to why Washington has denied entrance to one of the country's richest men and its most famous singer.
Metals tycoon Oleg Deripaska has experienced trouble with US visas for the past half decade. The Wall Street Journal has reported the problems could be linked to allegations of ties to organised crime, claims denied by Deripaska.
Iosef Kobzon -- nicknamed the Russian Frank Sinatra -- has been denied a visa under the same suspicions since 1995.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov revealed Tuesday that he had sent a letter to the United States demanding an explanation. He was writing on behalf of Deripaska's efforts to reverse the ban.
"They are still unable to explain why they (Deripaska and Kobzon) have been denied the visas," Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying. "The Russian leadership has raised this issue more than once."
Lavrov said his letter was written to the US firm lobbying on Deripaska's behalf to the United States.
He called the aluminium magnate "one of our country's prominent business leaders" whose companies "serve as an engine for the domestic and international economy."
Lavrov added that Deripaska's travel between the two countries would help the business relations of both.
Deripaska saw his net worth plunged 25.1 billion dollars during the world financial crisis, according to Forbes magazine, and his holding company Basic Element has amassed billions of dollars in debts.
Before the crisis, Deripaska was Russia's richest man and, after recovering somewhat from his 2008 losses, he has climbed back to number five on the Forbes list of Russia's richest.
Kobzon serves as a deputy in the State Duma lower house of parliament.
© 2010 AFP