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10 Feb, 2009 18:24

Russian ambassador calls UK ‘reserved area’ for criminals

 Russian ambassador calls UK ‘reserved area’ for criminals

The Russian ambassador to Great Britain has labeled the UK a “reserved area” for Russian criminals.

Some 20 criminals are now hiding from the Russian law in Great Britain, according to Yury Fedotov, Russia’s ambassador to the UK.

“The UK has turned into sort of a reserved area, where people can safely hide from justice despite having committed grave crimes and being on wanted lists in Russia,” Yury Fedotov says.

Speaking on the Vesti 24/7 TV-channel, Fedotov stressed that the British will not extradite people who have been previously granted political asylum in the UK.

“Political asylum is provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the UK. Extradition is impossible without a corresponding decision by British courts. But courts do not consider cases of those already provided with political asylum,” said Fedotov, referring to the Ministry. The ambassador has called the situation “political juggling.”

According to Fedotov, Russia regularly directs inquiries about criminal suspects to British government departments and sends documents collected by the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office, but courts in Great Britain do not review them.

Criminals most wanted in Russia from the UK

Fedotov mentioned that Russia continues to demand the extradition of Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky and terrorist Ahmed Zakaev, the so-called leader of the self-proclaimed Chechen republic of Ichkeria.

Berezovsky has been wanted in Russia since September 2001 on charges of swindling, money-laundering and the attempted illegal take-over of state power. He was sentenced in abstentia to six years in prison for the theft of Aeroflot Airlines stocks. Berezovsky now lives in Great Britain as a political refugee, though over ten criminal cases have been launched against Berezovsky in Russia.

Ahmed Zakaev, according Russian FSB, planned to revive the underground terrorist movement in the Chechen Republic and Dagestan. Since 2001 he has been wanted on charges of terrorism, murdering civilians and law enforcement officers and the abduction of others. London, referring to procedural abuses, granted Zakaev political asylum in 2003.

Also, quite a few people charged with economic crimes remain safe in Great Britain. Among them are several former top managers of the well-known Yukos oil company and Mikhail Gutseriev, the ex-chairman of RussNeft.

The latest scandal now revolves around the former cell phone boss, Evgeny Chichvarkin, who is charged with abduction and extortion. He also has found refuge in the UK. The businessman left Russia shortly before charges were brought against him and, so far, doesn’t plan to return. Russian courts have issued an international warrant for Chichvarkin’s arrest. However, Interpol has not yet acknowledged receiving it.

Once in 2008, the British agreed to extradite to Russia a Lithuanian citizen suspected of selling drugs. However she somehow managed to escape from British police. Fedotov said that it’s been almost a year since she went missing and still hasn’t been found. He also emphasized that this is the only case in the history of bilateral relations between Russia and the UK in which the British agreed to satisfy Russia’s request on extradition.

The latest Russian request for extradition was issued in connection with a false threat to commit a terrorist act. In 2006 Evgeny Dogaev, while apparently intoxicated, threatened to blow up an Aeroflot aircraft. After the forced landing in Prague, he was arrested and later released on bail by Czech police. Russia’s request for his extradition was approved, however Dogaev managed to escape and disappeared for several months. He is now hiding in the UK.

The British still want Lugovoy

At the same time, the British seek to extradite State Duma Deputy Andrey Lugovoy, who is considered the main suspect in the London murder of former FSB agent Aleksandr Litvinenko.

Russia has refused to hand over Lugovoy, referring to the Russian Constitution, which bans extradition of Russian citizens abroad. This has caused a diplomatic scandal, which remains unresolved.