A former top Russian central bank official known for his criticism of Kremlin policies says he is not in Russia and is not under arrest, commenting on media reports that he was detained at a Moscow airport for allegedly failing to make a customs declaration about Soviet-era medals.
The Moscow tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets, citing unnamed customs officials, reported on August 23 that Sergei Aleksashenko was detained at Domodedovo airport recently as he passed through customs on his way to board a flight to Munich.
Russian Internet channel Dozhd (TV Rain) cited Aleksashenko as saying on August 24 that he left Russia on a flight from Sheremetyevo airport, not Domodedovo, and that a lawyer was trying to determine what was going on.
The MK report, which was followed by a similar article in the Interfax news agency, said officers found seven military medals and other Soviet-era awards in his hand luggage, but without accompanying papers, and that Aleksashenko stated they were from his personal collection. It said the items were valued at around $13,000, and that Aleksashenko faced a possible prison sentence if convicted of trafficking in contraband material.
The Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified law enforcement source as saying that Aleksashenko boarded a flight after several medals were confiscated, and that a criminal investigation on suspicion of smuggling cultural valuables out of Russia had been opened.
Russian officials have not commented and the veracity of the Interfax report, which quoted a second unnamed source as saying the incident occurred "a week ago," could not immediately be established.
Aleksashenko did not immediately respond to text, phone, and e-mail messages seeking further comment.
An economist by training, Aleksashenko served as a top Finance Ministry official in the 1990s and later deputy chairman of Russia's central bank. He now has a home in the United States and is nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
He has also reportedly served as an economic adviser to Aleksei Navalny, the anticorruption crusader who is seeking to run in the March presidential election.