VILNIUS - The disgraced former leader of Lithuania's Labor Party, Viktor Uspaskich, has applied for political asylum in Russia, following his detention in Moscow at the request of Lithuanian prosecutors.
Prosecutors last week issued an Interpol warrant against Uspaskich, who is suspected of falsifying Labor Party financial records.
Uspaskich told LNK TV news that he had applied for a refugee status in Russia.
"I have asked for legal assistance for political reasons - the political persecution by Lithuanian law enforcement institutions," Uspaskich said. He said he had been detained and interrogated "I boarded a car and was taken to a prosecutor's office. I was questioned and briefed on the suspicions against me. After hearing my answers, the Russian officials decided to apply to their Lithuanian colleagues for additional information and let me go," said Uspaskich.
However questions remain about Uspaskich's citizenship status. If the former leader holds both Russian and Lithuanian citizenship, he may be out of the reach of Lithuanian prosecutors.
LNK TV news reported that a Moscow court released Uspaskich on Friday evening. According to the report, Uspaskich's application for political asylum is also being processed. If he was released due to his application for political asylum, and not on bail, this would serve as evidence that he is a dual citizen of both Russia and Lithuania, LNK TV news reported.
Uspaskich was detained by a special Russian police unit in early hours of September 15 following a tip-off from Lithuanian authorities that he may resist arrest and try to escape. He was taken to a police station in Moscow.
Without an official report on the detention, the Lithuanian Prosecutor General's Office could not send an extradition request to Russia. The document has already been prepared and translated into Russian.
Russia cannot hand over a person to a foreign country if his a Russian citizen, has applied for political asylum in Russia, has already been convicted for the actions he is wanted by the foreign state and in some other cases.
Uspaskich, 47-year-old Russian-born Kedainiai businessman, who lost his position as economic minister and a parliamentarian in the wake of scandals, has been hiding in Russia from Lithuanian law enforcement agencies, which suspected him of non-transparent party accounting.
The former leader of the Labor Party is suspected of submission of false data about party's incomes to the State Tax Inspectorate and the Central Electoral Committee.