Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 2

Sergei Stankevich, a former Moscow deputy mayor and Duma deputy who was once a leading light of Russia’s democratic movement, announced yesterday that the Polish government had granted him political refugee status. In 1995, Stankevich was charged with having accepted, during his tenure as Moscow deputy mayor, a US$10,000 bribe from a British company which was organizing a concert on Red Square. Stankevich argued that the charges were trumped up, and left Russia after the State Duma stripped him of his immunity from prosecution. He was briefly jailed in Poland, but released after Polish courts rejected the Russian government’s extradition requests. Last month, he was granted a Polish passport (Russian agencies, January 4; Moscow Times, January 5).

Stankevich said in an interview yesterday that the Polish government’s decision to grant him political refugee status was a formal recognition that the Russian government’s charges against him were “political” in nature. Stankevich said he wanted to return to Russia as soon as he could, but that this would probably become possible only when Russia has a new president. He also confirmed that he had been approached by the leadership of the Democratic Russia party about becoming a member. Stankevich said he was considering the offer and would probably accept (NTV television, January 4).

Ruslan Linkov–aide to Galina Starovoitova, one of Democratic Russia’s leaders who was murdered last November–said yesterday that the party would invite various leaders of Russia’s early democratic movement to join the party. Linkov, who was severely wounded in the shooting which killed Starovoitova, and subsequently elected head of Democratic Russia’s St. Petersburg branch, specifically named Stankevich, former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak and Moscow historian Yuri Afanasyev as prospective party members. Linkov said Starovoitova had been in frequent contact with Stankevich in the months prior to her death. Sobchak fled St. Petersburg for Paris last year after being formally charged with corruption. Like Stankevich, Sobchak claims the corruption charges against him are false and part of a politically motivated campaign to discredit him. Meanwhile, Andrei Frolov, acting head of Democratic Russia, said Poland’s decision to grant Stankevich asylum amounted to a recognition that Russia is not a free country (Russian agencies news agency, January 4).