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Late Moscow Mayor's Widow 'Wanted' After Failure To Appear In Court

Yelena Baturina with her late husband, Yury Luzhkov, pictured in September 2016.

A Russian regional court on December 27 has declared the billionaire widow of former Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov a fugitive for failing to appear in court in a criminal libel case.

A criminal slander case was reportedly launched in September in the Caspian province of Kalmykia against Yelena Baturina, according to RBK.

Baturina reportedly did not show up to the trial and is being represented by lawyers.

Russian law allows defendants in minor criminal cases to be represented by their lawyers.

But in the statement required by the court for such approval, Baturina reportedly did not explain why she could not attend the court hearings in the town, which is 1,200 kilometers southeast of Moscow. She also reportedly neglected to date the document.

Lawyers for Baturina called the court's decision "illegal" and said they would appeal it. Her designation as a fugitive does not mean that she would be arrested, Russian media said.

The lawsuit arose from a decade-old dispute between Baturina and her brother Viktor Baturin, the former first vice president of her company Inteco.

During a hearing in Vienna about their dispute, Baturina said that Erentsen Manzheev, a financial director for Baturin, was under criminal investigation. Manzheev said that was false and filed a lawsuit against her.

Among Russia's Wealthiest

Baturina is one of Russia’s richest women, having built her fortune during the 1990s and 2000s when her husband dominated Moscow politics.

Inteco received sizable Moscow city contracts, raising questions about a possible conflict of interest.

Baturina and her late husband repeatedly denied she received any favors from the city.

Baturina pushed her brother out of Inteco in 2006, giving him a 50 percent stake in one of its subsidiaries and a construction business in Sochi.

He later went bankrupt and has filed multiple lawsuits over the years against his sister seeking greater compensation. He has lost all the cases to date.

Luzhkov was fired by then-President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010 after which his wife's business in Moscow shriveled up.

She turned her focus to investing her wealth in real estate funds and projects in Europe and the United States.

The couple spent much of their time since 2010 in Vienna, where they owned a home. Luzhkov died earlier this month at the age of 83.

With reporting by Vedomosti, TASS, and RBK