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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Protests Arrest of Ex-Kremlin Aide

Police in New York have detained former top Kremlin aide Pavel Borodin under a warrant issued by Swiss authorities for alleged money laundering and Russia on Thursday immediately demanded his unconditional release.

A top Swiss prosecutor said he had been officially informed of Borodin's arrest and would be seeking his extradition.

Borodin was detained at Kennedy airport Wednesday and was to face questioning by a New York court later on Thursday. Interfax said he had been invited to the United States to attend the inauguration Saturday of President-elect George W. Bush.

Within hours, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had summoned U.S. ambassador James Collins and protested to him over the arrest.

"The Russian side demands the immediate and unconditional release of (Pavel) Borodin," a Foreign Ministry statement said.

Officials at the U.S. embassy declined to comment.

Interfax quoted Borodin's lawyers Genrikh Padva and Boris Kuznetsov as saying they would soon talk to their colleagues in New York to clarify why he had been detained.

Borodin, the former head of the Kremlin's huge property empire, was at the centre of a series of allegations of bribe-taking involving Swiss firms which dogged the final years in office of former President Boris Yeltsin.

Borodin strenuously denied any wrongdoing and Russian prosecutors dropped their investigations last year. However, a Swiss prosecutor issued a warrant for his arrest.

Borodin, moved from his Kremlin post after Vladimir Putin came to office last year, is currently head of a special body overseeing efforts to form a "union state" between Russia and the neighbouring former Soviet republic of Belarus.

He is close to Putin, who said in a book of reflections published last year that Borodin had been responsible for bringing him to Moscow from St Petersburg in 1996 to work in the presidential administration.

Lawyer Kuznetsov said Borodin's position meant he enjoyed diplomatic status, even if he had tried to enter the United States on a standard Russian passport.

SWISS PROSECUTOR TO PROCEED WITH EXTRADITION

Bernard Bertossa, Geneva's chief prosecutor whose international warrant led to Borodin's arrest, said the Russian was wanted in Switzerland for involvement in laundering $25 million.

"I was officially informed by the U.S. authorities about Borodin's arrest this (Thursday) morning. He was arrested on our international arrest warrant," Bertossa said by telephone.

"We will be asking the United States to extradite Borodin to Switzerland."

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, seen on television greeting Borodin during a visit to Moscow this week, criticised the arrest.

"This is a very unfriendly move by the United States in relation to Belarus and Russia," Lukashenko said in a brief televised extract of a meeting with officials in Minsk.

Russian parliamentarians also denounced the U.S. action. Nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky even suggested retaliating by arresting U.S. citizens currently in Russia.

A Swiss investigating magistrate indicted five people and issued the warrant for alleged money laundering against Borodin a year ago after a probe into alleged bribe-taking by government officials from Swiss construction firms Mabetex and Mercata.

Bertossa declined to say what implications Borodin's arrest would have on the Swiss probe.

The Russian prosecutors dropped their case against Borodin last year after years of cooperation with the Swiss authorities.

The probe into the firms centred on the alleged payment of millions of dollars in kickbacks to Kremlin officials to secure lucrative contracts to refurbish Russian public buildings.