Ukraine Grants Kemerovo Reporter Asylum

A Kemerovo journalist and opposition activist said Monday that he had received political asylum in Ukraine after he complained of persecution by police for his critical coverage of regional authorities.

Alexander Kosvintsev, who wrote about corruption among regional authorities and headed up the Kemerovo region branch of Garry Kasparov's opposition movement, said by telephone from Kiev that he was granted asylum Friday "after a year's wait."

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry did not respond Monday to a faxed request for comment.

Kosvintsev, 54, wrote for numerous publications in the Kemerovo region and said he had been sued on several occasions by law enforcement officials over his stories.

But after he took over the regional branch of Kasparov's United Civil Front in August 2005, law enforcement officials began using "physical intimidation," and he began receiving threatening phone calls, Kosvintsev said.

Police and other law enforcement officials were acting on the orders of Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev, who had filed a request with the regional prosecutor's office for Kosvintsev to be investigated, Kosvintsev said.

Alexei Bugayets, spokesman for the Kemerovo region prosecutor's office, confirmed Monday that prosecutors received Tuleyev's request some two years ago but said they took no action because they had no grounds to open an investigation.

Oleg Shishko, a spokesman for Tuleyev's office, declined to comment on Kosvintsev's claims.

Tuleyev has received three state awards from President Vladimir Putin.