SOFIA (Reuters) - A Bulgarian court said it would decide on Friday whether to extradite to Moscow a prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was detained in Sofia earlier this week.
Nicolay Koblyakov was held for 72 hours after being detained at Sofia airport on Tuesday following an extradition request from Russia, where he is wanted for crimes allegedly committed between 2004 and 2005.
“The extradition request hearing (for Koblyakov) will be held today,” Sofia City Court’s spokeswoman told Reuters.
She declined to comment on the Russian allegations made against Koblyakov but Russian media have quoted him and his lawyers as saying they are “politically motivated”.
Koblyakov, who is 44 and has dual Russian and French nationality, is a founder of the French non-governmental organization Russie-Libertes, which has staged a series of anti-Putin protests in France.
The case coincides with a sharp increase in tensions between Russia and the European Union, of which Bulgaria is a member, over Moscow’s support for separatist rebels in Ukraine.
Bulgaria traditionally has strong ties to Moscow but has backed new EU sanctions imposed against Russia this week targeting its banking, defense and oil sectors. [ID:nL6N0Q44PE]
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.
“We hope to have a response from the Bulgarian authorities,” Russie-Libertes’ president Alexis Prokopiev told Bulgarian national radio.
“It would be a shame if there is not a response but we will continue to act and engage public opinion and civil society.”
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Gareth Jones