By Elias Hazou
Cypriot authorities have yet to receive an official extradition request from Russia for Andrey Nekrasov, a journalist and political activist currently being held in Nicosia’s Central Prisons.
Nekrasov was arrested at Larnaca airport on July 15 on an international arrest warrant issued by Russia, after his arrival from Lithuania.
He is due to appear in court on August 13, when a judge will begin considering Russia’s extradition request, in what is a routine procedure.
An official extradition request must be made within 40 days of a person’s arrest.
Immediately following his arrest, Nekrasov requested political asylum here, and by law his application must be heard before any extradition proceedings.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said last week that he had asked the interior ministry to expedite examination of the asylum application.
Attorney Nicos Clerides, who could be appointed as the journalist’s legal representative, told the Cyprus Mail he will be visiting Nekrasov at the Central Prisons on Wednesday.
So far no official extradition papers have come from Russia, he said.
Clerides was due to see Nekrasov on Tuesday, but was informed by the journalist that he could not meet him for “technical reasons.”
Clerides has so far met with Nekrasov once, last Saturday.
Earlier, Clerides told the Mail that Nekrasov had not come to Cyprus to seek political asylum, but rather had left Lithuania for a short holiday, unaware that an international arrest warrant had been issued against him.
The attorney said that, in his opinion, Nekrasov should be sent back to Lithuania, his first point of entry into the EU.
Although Nekrasov did not apply for political asylum in Lithuania, the reason he cited for applying for residency there was his intention to apply for such protection. Lithuania subsequently granted him temporary residency.
According to the Dublin Regulation, usually the responsible state is the one through which the asylum seeker first entered the EU.
In a brief phone communication on Tuesday, interior minister Socrates Hasikos told the Mail only that “we are positively disposed toward the case,” but did not elucidate when asked.
He referred the Mail to the ministry’s permanent secretary, who is currently handling the case, but he could not be reached for comment.
Reporters Without Borders have called for Nekrasov’s immediate release, saying he faced a possible 15-year jail sentence if extradited to Russia.
According to the organisation, Nekrasov fled his home town in the Russian Urals in March, to escape imminent imprisonment in connection with his journalism and activism.
It was also unclear whether Nekrasov has meantime terminated the hunger strike he began shortly after being imprisoned.
Daily Politis reports that the Russian embassy in Nicosia is taking a “keen interest” in the young journalist.
Citing unnamed sources, the paper said pressure is being brought to bear on Nekrasov not to contest his extradition.
Meanwhile an online petition has been launched demanding Nekrasov’s immediate release. The petition was started by Nicolai Kobliakov, a Russian anti-Putin activist.
The petition is addressed to the interior minister, the justice minister and foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides.
Posted on the Change.org website, the petition has so far garnered over 12,000 supporters. It can be found here: https://www.change.org/p/immediately-release-andrei-nekrasov