Ally of top Putin critic says granted asylum in Britain

1st April 2015, Comments 0 comments

A close ally of top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Wednesday he has been given political asylum in Britain after fleeing Russia over alleged political persecution.

Vladimir Ashurkov -- who was executive director of opposition leader Navalny's anti-corruption fund -- told Moscow's independent TV channel Dozhd that British authorities had approved a request he filed last year.

"I've received asylum," he said in televised remarks.

A spokeswoman for Navalny confirmed to AFP that Ashurkov had received asylum in the UK, adding that his partner Alexandrina Markvo had also filed a similar request.

British authorities declined comment.

Previously a top bank manager at Alfa Group, Ashurkov, 43, left one of Russia's largest private investment groups to help Navalny expose corruption among President Vladimir Putin's allies and helped fund his campaign for Moscow mayor in 2013.

He said earlier he was the target of a fabricated criminal case and had been charged with embezzlement of electoral funds.

Ashurkov said he continued his work for Navalny, noting he was in "constant touch" with his anti-corruption fund.

He said he and his partner would like to be able return to Russia one day.

"Our home is there. Of course we would feel much more comfortable and pleasant there."

Navalny, the 38-year-old lawyer who became the charismatic leader of the opposition movement against Putin during huge protests in 2011-12, has himself been the target of several criminal probes.

Navalny -- who has previously spent months under house arrest -- has vowed to never leave Russia.

Several prominent Kremlin critics left Russia after Putin unleashed a crackdown on dissent after his return to the Kremlin for a third presidential term in 2012.

Prominent Russian emigres now include Paris-based economist Sergei Guriyev and former ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky who lives in self-imposed exile in Switzerland.

© 2015 AFP

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