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Russian journalist granted asylum in Lithuania

September 22, 2015

A journalist who fled extortion charges in Russia has been granted asylum in Lithuania, the Baltic EU state’s interior ministry said Tuesday.

“The migration department has carefully analysed the request and decided that Andrey Nekrasov meets criteria to grant him asylum,” ministry spokesman Tomas Berzinskas told AFP.

Media freedom activists hailed the move and urged Interpol to drop Nekrasov from the international wanted list, saying he could face up to 15 years in jail in Russia after disclosing details of corruption by local authorities.

“It was quite a swift decision so we are relieved,” Johann Bihr of Reporters Without Borders told AFP.

“Now we hope that Interpol will … take Nekrasov’s name off the Interpol list,” Bihr said.

The organisation said Nekrasov was accused of blackmail and extortion in 2013 after a campaign to defend the rights of workers in a factory in the Russian Ural mountain range.

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.

In July, Nekrasov was detained in Cyprus under an Interpol warrant but Nicosia decided to send him to Lithuania, which issued a national visa, rather than extraditing him to Russia, citing EU regulations.

Russia’s foreign ministry had urged Vilnius to honour the extradition request, insisting it “would be a purely legal, rather than politically motivated, decision”.

Russia ranks 152th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index and independent media there have been under pressure 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.