The Cyprus government plans to extradite a Russian asylum seeker back to Russia on Thursday following a Supreme Court ruling despite international and European rules, which supercede national law, prohibiting such moves until the asylum request has been processed, the Cyprus Mail learned on Tuesday.
According to a letter from the UNHCR dated October 20 and addressed to the head of Asylum Service Makis Polydorou, Russian national Natalia Konovalova is facing imminent extradition despite a pending asylum request.
“If indeed the information we have received is correct, I must stress in very clear terms that the Republic of Cyprus is precluded […] from extraditing Ms Konovalova to her country of origin,” said representative Damtew Dessalegne.
Dessalegne cited the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, as well as human rights law, which prohibit extradition under such conditions as those facing Konovalova.
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling on September 30, Konovalova has been held in custody.
Konovalova fled Russia in 2006 after she was accused by the Russian authorities of having embezzled 1.5 billion Russian roubles from Rekma, the company she managed, in a conspiracy with Tomsnekft, a Yukos subsidiary. Her husband and two children, 15 and 9, joined her a year later.
She applied for political asylum in Cyprus in 2011 on grounds of being persecuted for her political beliefs, as she had been deemed an associate of Yukos owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whom Russian leader Vladimir Putin regarded a political threat due to his wealth and beliefs.
Meanwhile, Konovalova was tried and found guilty in absentia in 2013 by a Russian court, which, she argued, negates the Russian Federation’s request for her extradition on grounds that she should face trial.