A key ally of Russian anti-Kremlin campaigner Alexei Navalny – Vladimir Ashurkov – has asked for political asylum in the UK.
Mr Ashurkov, 42, now wanted by Russian police, managed campaign funding for Navalny last year in the Moscow mayoral election. Navalny – currently under house arrest – failed to get elected.
Mr Ashurkov is accused of embezzlement.
In a tweet he said he wanted asylum because of “political persecution by the Russian authorities”.
Mr Ashurkov, a former banker, is executive director of Navalny’s anti-corruption fund.
In July the Russian Investigative Committee – a state body modelled on the American FBI – issued an arrest warrant for Mr Ashurkov. At the time Navalny dismissed allegations that Mr Ashurkov had stolen campaign contributions.
Navalny, 38, also dismissed the committee’s allegations against another of his aides, Konstantin Yankauskas, who is under house arrest.
The Russian daily Izvestia reports that Mr Ashurkov requested asylum after flying to the UK with his partner in May. It says they are in the UK now with their newborn son and his partner’s daughter.
Navalny is famous for using social media to mock the establishment loyal to President Vladimir Putin. He is seen as a thorn in the side of Mr Putin, whom he accuses of fostering widespread corruption.
During Mr Putin’s crackdown on political opponents in Russia a number of prominent dissidents have been given asylum in the UK. Among them were former intelligence agent Alexander Litvinenko and former Putin ally Boris Berezovsky, both now dead.