SOFIA (Reuters) - A prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin who was detained in Sofia following an extradition request from Moscow was released on Friday by a Bulgarian court on condition he does not leave the country.
Nicolay Koblyakov had been held for 72 hours after being detained at Sofia airport. He is wanted by Russia on suspicion of fraud between 2004 and 2005.
The Sofia City Court, however, said Koblyakov’s actions can not be classified as fraud, or any crime, under Bulgarian law, adding that this could be a reason for a future denial of Russia’s request for extradition.
Koblyakov, 44, who has dual Russian and French nationality, is a founder of the French non-governmental organisation Russie-Libertes, which has staged a series of anti-Putin protests in France.
“I trust the Bulgarian justice system and I can ensure you that I will not run away because I have long-term goals here,” he told the court.
Russian media has quoted his lawyers as saying the case was politically motivated.
Prosecutors asked the court on Friday to order a temporary detention for Koblyakov for up to 40 days for hiding from the Russian authorities.
They can appeal against the court’s decision and another hearing is due on Thursday.
Bulgaria traditionally has strong ties to Moscow but has backed new EU sanctions imposed against Russia this week over the conflict in Ukraine, targeting its banking, defence and oil sectors.
Russie-Libertes staged a protest rally in front of the Bulgarian embassy in Paris on Thursday night, urging the Bulgarian authorities to reject the extradition request.
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Alison Williams