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Russian journalist seeks refuge in Lithuania after Cyprus arrest

August 6, 2015

Lithuania said Thursday it would consider an asylum request by a Russian opposition journalist after he was detained in fellow EU state Cyprus upon Moscow’s request.

“Lithuania will take responsibility for processing the asylum request,” the Baltic state’s interior minister’s spokesman Tomas Berzinskas told AFP.

The journalist, Andrey Nekrasov, was detained in Cyprus last month under an Interpol warrant and applied for asylum the next day.

Nicosia said Thursday it had decided to send him to Lithuania, which issued a national visa, rather than extraditing hom to Russia, citing EU regulations.

Nekrasov’s lawyer and media freedom activists welcomed the move, saying Nekrasov could face up to 15 years in jail in Russia after disclosing details of corruption by local authorities.

“He clearly stated that he would like to be sent to Lithuania” which is a vocal critic of Russia, lawyer Nicoletta Charalambidou told AFP in a telephone interview.

“We are thankful to the Lithuanian authorities and we would urge them to grant Andrey Nekrasov the asylum as he is indeed politically persecuted in his country,” Johann Bihr of Reporters Without Borders told AFP.

The media freedom organization said Nekrasov was accused of blackmail and extortion in 2013 after a campaign to defend the rights of workers in the factory in the Russian Urals.

Earlier this year, he was also fined on a criminal defamation charge for linking a local official in the ruling party to a person of the same name with assets in the United States, it said.

Russia’s independent media has recently been under enormous pressure with several outlets being persecuted for expressing views critical of the Kremlin.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.