A close ally of the prominent anti-Kremlin campaigner Alexei Navalny has applied for political asylum in Britain.
Vladimir Ashurkov, 42, fled Russia earlier this year before the authorities announced an investigation into allegations of embezzlement from Mr Navalny’s campaign in the 2013 election for Moscow’s mayor.
Mr Navalny, who has accused the Russian President Vladimir Putin of presiding over a culture of corruption, came a distant second in the election and has since been placed under house arrest.
Mr Ashurkov, a former banker who is the executive director of Mr Navalny’s anti-corruption campaign, came to Britain via Israel in May and revealed yesterday that he was seeking asylum due to “political persecution” by Moscow.
Investigators with the Russian equivalent of the FBI announced in July that they were charging Mr Ashurkov with siphoning 2.27 million roubles (£42,000) from funds donated to Mr Navalny’s campaign. He was accused along with two other aides to Mr Navalny.
The Russian paper Izvestia said Mr Ashurkov had travelled to Britain with his pregnant partner, who has since given birth to their baby son, and her daughter. He is reportedly living in London. In a tweet, Mr Ashurkov said: “Some time ago I asked the government of the United Kingdom to be granted asylum due to political persecution from the Russian Federation authorities.”
Moscow has frequently levelled corruption claims against Kremlin opponents, forcing them to flee Russia or face incarceration. Mr Navalny, 38, who is facing several criminal cases, dismissed the allegations against Mr Ashurkov and his other aides.
London has proved a popular bolthole for many of the Russian President’s political opponents. The former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered in 2006, and one-time Putin ally Boris Berezovsky, were both granted asylum in the United Kingdom.
Mr Ashurkov left Russia weeks after his Moscow home was raided in February this year by investigators pursuing a case against Mr Navalny for alleged embezzlement from his Foundation for Fighting Corruption.