Pora Leader Asks U.K. for Asylum

MTAndrei Sidelnikov
An opposition activist who met with Alexander Litvinenko shortly before he was poisoned said Monday that he had applied for political asylum in Britain.

leader of the Pora youth group, said by phone from London's Gatwick Airport that he had made the request upon landing Sunday and had been waiting at the airport for a reply ever since. Asked why he was seeking asylum, he said, "I am not commenting on that."

He abruptly cut off the conversation, saying it was "inconvenient" to talk and that he did not have much money left on his cell phone account.

A British Home Office spokeswoman said the office did not comment on individual asylum applications. "It's a personal matter between the Home Office and that person," she said.

Sidelnikov met Litvinenko, a former FSB officer, in London on Oct. 30, 2006, two days before Litvinenko was fatally poisoned. Sidelnikov has repeatedly voiced his eagerness to assist Scotland Yard in the investigation.

On Thursday, Federal Security Service officers detained Sidelnikov, 32, at Sheremetyevo Airport as he tried to fly to London and barred him from leaving the country, Kasparov.ru reported, citing Sidelnikov. A day before that, the Investigative Committee interviewed Sidelnikov about last year's murder of reporter Anna Politkovskaya, it said.

British newspaper The Guardian, citing one of Sidelnikov's friends, reported Monday that Sidelnikov had fled because of "political persecution." It said Sidelnikov arrived in London from Kiev.

The FSB and Investigative Committee declined to comment Monday.

Several years ago, Sidelnikov represented Boris Berezovsky, a businessman who has asylum in London, in the Liberal Russia party. Berezovsky said Monday that Sidelnikov had not contacted him. "But if he asks for help, I will surely help," he said.