VILNIUS - Russia will not extradite Lithuania's former economy minister Viktor Uspaskich, who is wanted on charges of fraud, but he plans to come back to Lithuania on his own, his lawyer said.
"The Russian Federation, in an official letter received on February 7, confirmed it will not extradite former Labour Party leader Viktor Uspaskich, who is wanted for deception in managing party finances and submitting misleading information to the tax inspectorate," the Lithuanian Prosecutor General's office said in a statement on Feb 15.
It also noted that "Russia's refusal is based on the 1957Â European Convention on Extradition, article 3 's political crimes."
Russian-born Uspaskich left Lithuania in May after the offices of his Labour Party were searched by investigators on suspicions of financial fraud. It was later reported that Uspaskich and the Labour Party were charged with failing to declare some 8 million litas of party income and some 7 million litas of spending.
Uspaskich denied the accusations, claiming the charges against him were of political nature.
Lithuanian media has reported that Uspaskich has requested political asylum in Russia, but prosecutors have refused to confirm these reports.
"The office of prosecutor general does not have information on the issue of Russia granting political asylum to Uspaskich," the prosecutor's office said in Feb 4. statement.
Vytautas Bucius, Uspaskich's lawyer, also denied that his client is seeking political asylum in Russia.
"Viktor Uspaskich wants to come back to Lithuania, he does not plan to live in Russia," Bucius told The Baltic Times.
He also said that the official letter from Russian prosecutors, in which they state that Uspaskich will not be extradited, is an answer to an old request by Lithuanian legal institutions.
"The request was sent to Russia last autumn and the situation has changed since then," Bucius said.
But he refused to say when Uspaskich could return to Lithuania.
"This does not depend solely on him. If he refuses asylum, then some legal procedures must be conducted before he may leave Russia. The final decision should be taken by Russian prosecutors and we have no influence on timing," Bucius said.
"But sooner or later Uspaskich will come back to Lithuania," he added.
Uspaskich stormed to the forefront of Lithuanian politics in 2004 by leading his then newly-created Labour Party to election success. The party became part of a four-party ruling coalition, and Uspaskich himself was appointed the new government's minister of economy.
But in June 2005 he was forced to resign after being accused of abusing his position for personal gain.
The Labour Party later quit the ruling coalition and split into two groups. Uspaskich quit as head of the Labour Party in June last year, when he was already in Moscow.
Meanwhile his party has registered him to run in Feb. 25 municipal elections in his home city Kedainiai.
Candidates in elections have immunity from prosecution, but Uspaskich's has been stripped of it by the election commission at the request of the prosecutor's office.