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Russian Economist Critical Of Kremlin Plans To Remain Abroad Due To Alleged Criminal Probe

Russian economist Sergei Aleksashenko (file photo)
Russian economist Sergei Aleksashenko (file photo)

A leading Russian economist critical of the Kremlin says he is holding off on returning to Russia due to possible "dangers" following a report that he is under investigation for allegedly failing to make a customs declaration about Soviet-era medals.

Sergei Aleksashenko, a former top Russian central bank official, said in an August 29 radio interview that a Russian newspaper report about the purported criminal case suggests someone may be targeting him for prosecution back home.

"Until it becomes clear to me that traveling to Russia is not dangerous for me, I will likely refrain from trips to Russia," Aleksashenko, who has been based in Washington for several years, told the Moscow-based radio station Ekho Moskvy.

The Russian daily Moskovsky Komsomolets (MK) on August 23 cited unnamed customs officials as saying that Aleksashenko was detained at a Moscow airport recently as he passed through customs en route to a connecting flight.

MK reported that customs officials found seven military medals and other Soviet-era awards valued at around $13,000 in Aleksashenko's hand luggage, but that he did not have the accompanying paperwork.

Russian authorities have not officially confirmed that he was detained or is under investigation.

Aleksashenko told Ekho Moskvy on August 29 that he has been subjected to repeated searches while flying in and out of Russia since he moved to the United States in 2013.

He said an official told him during one of these searches that authorities had received a "signal" from security services that he was carrying a large amount of cash.

Aleksashenko declined to discuss details of the reported incident in the Ekho Moskvy interview, citing fears that they could be used against him. He added that his lawyer is working to establish whether he is, in fact, under investigation.

An economist by training, Aleksashenko served as a top Finance Ministry official in the 1990s and later as deputy chairman of Russia's Central Bank. He is currently a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

Aleksashenko said in 2014 that he was forced out of his job as editor of an influential newsletter published by a leading Moscow university due to his criticism of the Kremlin's economic policies.

With reporting by Ekho Moskvy and Moskovsky Komsomolets
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