2019.08.14 12:00

Vilnius court hears appeal from Russian businessman suspected of oil contamination

Jonas Kisielius, BNS 2019.08.14 12:00

A Vilnius court heard the appeal by businessman Roman Ruzhechko, a suspect in a Russian oil pipeline contamination case, on Wednesday. The Russian citizen, who has asked for political asylum in Lithuania, is in detention while courts are processing Moscow's request for his extradition.

Ruzhechko has been in custody in Kaunas, Lithuania's second biggest city, since mid-July under a ruling of Vilnius District Court and is seeking softer measures. His lawyer Rolandas Tilindis has said the ruling is expected on August 22.

Russian law enforcement officials are seeking the extradition of Ruzhechko whom they suspect of involvement in the contamination of Transneft's Druzhba oil pipeline.

Read more: Russian businessman wanted in tainted oil probe detained in Vilnius, asks for political asylum

The oil pipeline was temporarily shut down on April 19 after it was found to contain oil with a high content of dichloroethane, a toxic substance with strong corrosive properties. Oil supplies to at least six European countries were stopped.

According to Tilindis, the decision to hold the Russian in custody is disproportionate, because international extradition rules do not require holding the suspect in custody. Ruzhechko has accommodation in Lithuania and would be easily reachable, if necessary.

“There evidence that a process in Russia would not be objective. And it isn't hard to imagine that when a product is exported abroad and something happens with its quality, naturally, major state companies will try to avoid that stain and will try to find some private company to put the blame on,” the lawyer told journalists.

Tilindis noted that the Russian president and prime minister have already commented on the incident, raising risks of political pressure. Moreover, Russia's security service, the FSB, has started an investigation.

According to the lawyer, Ruzhechko rejects all accusation and his representatives have prepared documents proving that the supplied oil met all standards.

The prosecutor refused to comment on the case after the closed-door court hearing.

But the lawyer said that one of the prosecutor's arguments in court was that Russia had provided guarantees the trial would be fair and objective.

Ruzhechko is seeking political asylum in Lithuania and the Migration Department is processing his application.