MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian banker accused of fraud said Friday he has been granted asylum in Britain to protect him from "baseless" politically motivated charges in Russia.
Former Bank of Moscow head Andrei Borodin told Russian media that he had convinced British authorities that charges he faces in Russia are politically motivated persecution launched by Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
He fled to London in 2011 to avoid the charges stemming from the bank's $14 billion bailout after it was taken over by state-run VTB. British authorities denied him and his deputy political asylum in May last year, but he appealed.
"I have always maintained that the allegation made against me and the charges brought by the Russian Federation are without foundation and are politically motivated," he said in a statement. The granting of refugee status shows that Britain recognizes the charges "are baseless and without merit," he said.
A spokesman said Borodin was not immediately available for further comment. Britain's Home Office, which handles immigration and asylum issues, said that it could not comment on individual cases.
In August, Interpol issued a Red Notice, the equivalent of an international arrest warrant, for Borodin at Russia's request. Russian authorities said Friday they would continue to seek Borodin's extradition.
Natalia Timakova, Medvedev's press secretary, told the Vedomosti business daily that the decision was the result of Britain's "clumsy mechanism" of an asylum process, which she said depended solely on "declaring political persecution as loudly as possible."
Tensions between Britain and the Kremlin have flared in recent years after controversial Russians including Chechen rebel leader Akhmed Zakayev and disgraced former oligarch Boris Berezovsky were granted asylum.
Moscow's former mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who enjoyed an exceptionally cozy relationship with the bank when he ran the city as a personal fiefdom for the better part of two decades, welcomed the decision as part of "the defense of a respectable banker" from "unfounded accusations."
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