Ousted Moscow mayor seeks Latvia residency: minister

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Moscow's ousted mayor Yury Luzhkov wants to emigrate to Latvia, but the Baltic state is likely to reject the controversial figure's request, Latvian Interior Minister Linda Murniece said Monday.

Murniece said that Luzhkov -- a once-powerful official who was axed in September after falling foul of the Kremlin -- applied for a residency permit at Latvia's embassy in the Russian capital in December.

"My opinion is that Yury Luzhkov doesn't deserve a residence permit in Latvia because his attitude has always been very negative towards our country," Murniece told reporters.

"He always said publicly that he basically hates this country. I think that is a good enough reason for him not to get a residence permit. And I, as interior minister, have the right to decide when it comes to residence permits," she said.

Relations between the Baltic nation of 2.2 million and giant Russia have been rocky since Riga won independence when the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991.

Ties have thawed, however, after a landmark visit to Moscow last month by Latvian President Valdis Zatlers.

Luzhkov applied under a residence-for-investment law for non-European Union citizens, brought in last year to help revive Latvia's slump-struck economy.

Because Latvia is an EU member, its legal residents can travel easily throughout the 27-nation bloc and Europe's visa-free Schengen zone.

Individuals who invest at least 25,000 lats (36,000 euros, 47,550 dollars) in a Latvia-based business can apply.

Less red tape is required if the individual deposits about 200,000 lats in a bank for a minimum of five years.

According to Latvian media reports, Luzhkov invested that sum in the Riga-based bank Rietumu Banka. The bank told AFP it had no immediate comment.

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 his wife Yelena Baturina -- who became Russia's richest woman when he was in power -- have found themselves in the spotlight over their business dealings.

© 2011 AFP

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