VILNIUS-Almost a majority of Lithuanians think that the Russian secret service is protecting former Labor Party leader Viktor Uspaskich.
A recent poll of 500 residents shows that 42.5 percent believe that Uspaskich is being protected by the Russian secret service. Meanwhile, the Russian government is still going over his asylum claim and extradition request submitted by the Lithuanian government.
On Sept. 1, the Lithuanian government announced an international search for the 47-year-old businessman and former Labor Party leader on the grounds that he had falsified data about the party's income to the Tax Inspectorate and Central Election Committee.
Acting on information from Moscow's Intrapol office, the government sent an extradition request to Russia on Sept. 15.
Uspaskich was detained in Moscow on the same day and immediately asked for political asylum. He was promptly released in compliance with the European Convention on Extradition.
The results of the poll, carried out for the weekly Veidas by Fonitel and released on Sept. 21, also showed that 55.3 percent believe Uspaskich will not be sent back to Lithuania.
The results echo previous statements made by politicians during the last week.
"Judging from the public opinion that has been expressed, I believe there is protection by Russia's patriotic organizations, which are made up of former secret service employees," Parliamentary Speaker Viktoras Muntianas told Lithuanian Radio on Sept. 19.
Among the tax and election claims, the former labor party leader has also been accused of holding dual citizenship with Russia, and on Sept. 16 he told Lithuanian national TV that he had applied for refugee status in Russia. A Moscow court released Uspaskich on Friday evening.