Russia has refused to allow a Montenegrin Interior Ministry official into the country, expressing its anger over Montenegro’s decision to grant asylum to a fugitive tycoon wanted in connection with a double homicide.
Montenegro Interior Ministry official Zoran Miljanic at a press conference. Photo. Government of Montenegro
Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday did not allow a Montenegrin Interior Ministry official, Zoran Miljanic, to enter the country in a dispute over Montenegro’s decision to give asylum to a fugitive Russian billionaire, Telman Ismailov.
The Russian ministry sent a note to the embassy of Montenegro in Moscow, saying that entry was prohibited to the State Secretary of the Montenegrin Interior Ministry.
“This measure is a response to the one taken in October 2021. when Montenegrin authorities took an unfriendly step – granting political asylum to a citizen of the Russian Federation Telman Ismailov, declared by Interpol to be on the international wanted list for committing particularly serious crimes in the territory of Russia,” the Russian Ministry said in a press release.
On October 22, 2021, Montenegro gave political asylum to the Azerbaijan-born billionaire, who is on a Russian-issued international arrest warrant for allegedly ordering contract murders.
Ismailov was arrested in Montenegro’s capital, Podgorica, on October 1, 2021, but his lawyer Milos Vuksanovic said that on September 8 he had applied to the Montenegrin Interior Ministry for political asylum, and should not be extradited until a decision is made.
The Russian arrest warrant, from 2017, charges Ismailov with being involved in a double homicide. He could face life imprisonment if convicted. The case is reportedly connected with the 2016 murder of the businessman Vladimir Savkin and the founder of Lublino-Motors auto-service centre, Yury Brylev.
The tycoon’s brother, Rafik Ismailov, and another suspect, Mekhman Kerimov, are also accused of being involved in the double homicide. Kerimov has already pleaded guilty.
While Montenegro has not explained why it gave political asylum to Ismalov, media reported that it gave him protection due to the known existence of persecution in Russia based on political opinion.
On October 24, Russia’s Tass news agency reported that the head of the Russian Security Committee, Alexander Bastrokin, had ordered an investigation into why Montenegro had refused to extradite Ismailov.
Ismailov built the massive outdoor Cherkizovsky market in Moscow, only to have it closed in 2009 for “sanitary and safety violations” and for conducting illegal activities.
A Russian investigation accused the market of operating as a “state within a state,” with its own laws and security. Ismailov ultimately fled Russia and his properties were confiscated to cover his debts.
Media reported that the market’s closure was ordered weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin berated Ismailov for holding a lavish party at his massive five-star Mardan Place hotel in Turkey, at a time when many Russians were suffering from the financial crisis. Putin suggested his billions of dollars should be invested in Russia, not on expensive projects abroad.
Montenegrin media have reported that Ismailov had ties to former Montenegrin government officials, while his son, Alekper, owned a casino in the coastal town of Budva.
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