Roman Ruzhechko, a suspect in a Russian probe into a major oil pipeline contamination earlier this year, has asked for political asylum in Lithuania, a Vilnius district court spokesman told Reuters on Friday.
Russian prosecutors have charged Ruzhechko, an executive at a small oil transport firm, and several other people in a criminal conspiracy to pollute the network, which is owned and operated by the country's oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, Reuters said.
A lawyer for Ruzhechko has said there was nothing in the prosecutors' files that proved his client's guilt.
The contamination was discovered in April and led to a major disruption of supplies from Russia, the world's second largest oil exporter. Buyers are now seeking compensation worth tens of millions of dollars.
The contamination involved high levels of organic chloride found in oil sent via the Druzhba (“Friendship”) pipeline and to the Baltic port of Ust-Luga.
Druzhba can pump one million barrels per day or the equivalent of one percent of global oil demand and serves refiners in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine and Belarus.
Lithuania's prosecutor general office said Ruzhechko was detained in Lithuania on an Interpol warrant for 48 hours.
At a hearing on Thursday, the Vilnius district court authorised a three-month detention of Ruzhechko at the request of prosecutors, the court spokesman said.
A country has 40 days to present a request to extradite a person, Lithuania's prosecutors spokesman said.