Russian anti-Putin activist Koblyakov seeks political asylum in Bulgaria

Russian anti-Putin activist Nikolay Koblyakov, under house arrest in Bulgaria pending an extradition application from Moscow for him to face criminal charges of alleged property crimes, has applied in Sofia for political asylum.

This was confirmed to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio by his lawyer on September 3, two days after Sofia City Court ordered Koblyakov to remain under house arrest, in turn about a month after the court released him from custody on the grounds of insufficient evidence requiring him to remain under arrest.

Koblyakov, who holds dual Russian and French nationality, was arrested on arrival at Sofia Airport in late July on the basis of an Interpol arrest warrant requested by Russia.

Koblyakov said that being under house arrest prevented him exercising his rights as a French citizen. He said that there was clearly a need to use all legitimate means to guarantee his rights.

He said that Bulgaria’s constitution indicated that one way to protect your rights was through a request for political asylum.

Asked about his expectations regarding this procedure, he said, “Probably for Bulgaria it would be pretty brave to take such a decision. I understand that it is not like stopping South Stream, for example, but to do something against Russia is still a very serious decision”.

Koblyakov is basing his request for political asylum on the threat of prosecution and having been maligned by the Kremlin.

Russia alleges that in the period 2004 to 2005, Koblyakov embezzled more than 1.2 million euro from a French company.

Koblyakov, the founder of French NGO Free Russia (Russie-Liberté), which for years has organised protests against the Vladimir Putin regime and in support of Russian opposition figures and political prisoners, rejects the charges against him as politically-motivated.

“Bulgaria is a European country. Unfortunately the regime against which I fight and which currently is fighting against me, is a real threat to Europe, and my contribution to this struggle is useful for all free people and country like Bulgaria,” Koblyakov said at his court hearing on September 1.



The Sofia Globe staff

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