VILNIUS, August 10 - RAPSI. Lithuanian authorities have extended the protection status of a high-ranking Moscow official, Yuri Khardikov. Khardikov is suspected of stealing $31.56 million from Russia's richest woman Yelena Baturina, RIA Novosti reports.
"Lithuanian authorities have extended Khardikov's status for protection until next March. The Lithuanian authorities believe that his fundamental rights and freedoms might be violated if he returns to Russia," Lyudmila Sidorova, the attorney for the former official, said.
EU member states grant protection status to individuals who are outside their home country and cannot return because of civil rights concerns, in accordance with an EU Council Directive of April 29, 2004.
Khardikov served as the prefect of Moscow's Northern Administrative District but was dismissed in late 2008. A criminal case was initiated against him based on charges by Yelena Baturina, wife of the former Moscow mayor. Investigators maintain that in 2007 Khardikov sold Baturina property in Sochi even though he was aware that the land had been sequestered by court decision. Investigators claim the damages from the transaction amounted to one billion rubles ($31.56 million). Khardikov counters that the property was only held after the transaction was concluded.
Khardikov has expressed concerns over being treated fairly by Russian law enforcement authorities, claiming they are corrupt.
In November 2009, Khardikov was arrested in absentia on a warrant issued by the Moscow Tverskoy District Court and then placed on the international wanted list.
The former official believes that the case against him was falsified. In 2011 he filed a complaint with the ECHR on the unlawfulness of his arrest.