MOSCOW (AFP) - A key ally of top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Monday he had applied for asylum in Britain, linking his request to political persecution due to his work.
"Some time ago I requested that the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland grant me asylum because of the political persecution by Russian authorities," Vladimir Ashurkov said on Twitter.
He didn't provide further details.
A key ally of one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's top critics, Ashurkov, 42, is executive director at Navalny's anti-corruption fund.
Previously a top bank manager at Alfa Group, he left one of Russia's largest private investment groups to help Navalny expose corruption among the elites and helped fund his campaign for Moscow mayor last year.
Ashurkov's announcement came after the pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper published what it said was his application for asylum.
The application said that Ashurkov arrived in Britain so that his partner could give birth to their baby there.
"While in the UK, a fabricated criminal case was opened against me," Ashurkov wrote in the application, adding that he has been charged with embezzlement of electoral funds.
"If I return, I will face detention, inhuman conditions, torture and unfair judicial procedure." In June, the Investigative Committee charged two Navalny allies with fraud linked to the financing of his Moscow mayoral bid and issued a warrant for Ashurkov.
Navalny, the 38-year-old lawyer who became the charismatic leader of the opposition movement against Putin during huge protests in 2011-12, is under house arrest while on trial in another fraud case.
Navalny, who came second in Moscow's mayoral election last September, has faced a number of criminal cases, which his supporters have denounced as politically motivated.
Putin unleashed a crackdown on dissent when he returned to the Kremlin for a third presidential term in 2012.