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Russian opposition journalist arrives in Lithuania - seeks political asylum

  • 2015-08-13
  • BNS/George East/VILNIUS

Russian opposition journalist Andrey Nekrasov has sought political asylum in Lithuania.

On Wednesday August 11, 2015, Nekrasov arrived in Vilnius after having been detained in Cyprus last month. 

"Today I have asked for political asylum and I hope for a completely impartial examination of my application by the Government of Lithuania and the migration service, as Russia is persecuting me for political reasons," he told journalists at Vilnius Airport on arrival. “I’m really in danger if I go back to Russia."

When detained by Cypriot police under an Interpol order, Nekrasov requested political asylum in Cyprus.

Cyprus rejected the request to extradite Nekrasov to Moscow and decided to send him back to Lithuania, which had issued him a national visa. 

The decision was based on EU law, which stipulates asylum applications should be processed by the European Union member state the person entered first.

A spokeswoman for Lithuanian police confirmed to BNS that Nekrasov is officially wanted via the Interpol system, noting, however, that the search procedures are halted once an asylum application is examined.

Having arrived from Cyprus via the Latvian capital, Riga, Nekrasov spent more than four hours at Vilnius Airport in the hands of Lithuanian border patrols.

“I haven't slept for 24 hours and I'm very nervous,” he said. “It's a completely new stage in my life.

"After spending a month in detention in Cyprus, after an eight-day hunger strike, I cannot believe that I'm here. I think it's a miracle.”

Nekrasov said the Russian state has charged him with extortion charges, after the director of Kalashnikov Concern, and now head of the Federal Agency for the Development of State Border Infrastructure, Konstantin Busygin, filed a complaint against him. 

The complaint was lodged after Nekrasov and the local trade union wanted minimum pay to be raised.

”It's revenge for trade union activity in 2013," Nekrasov continued, and he claimed the former trade union leader is also asking for political asylum in the UK.

International NGO Reporters Without Border believes Nekrasov is being persecuted for his articles about corruption in the Russian Republic of Udmurtia.

"We believe that he is persecuted by Russian authorities over political motives," Johann Bihr from Reporters Without Border told BNS.

According to Bihr, the head of a local factory accused Nekrasov of blackmail when he published his article about employee protests. He added Nekrasov, however, was a witness to the protests.

The Federal Security Service detained the journalist and tried to make him confess to blackmail.

Nekrasov is facing up to 15 years in prison in Russia.

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