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Moscow is seeking the extradition of another Russian oligarch
Moscow is seeking the extradition of another Russian oligarch who fled to Britain, a demand that could further worsen the diplomatic crisis in relations between the two countries, the Guardian said Friday.

Russia, which has a series of outstanding extradition demands for Britain, recently ordered the closure of British Council offices in its regions. The latest development is seen as a follow-up to the scandal surrounding the murder of former Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko in London. Moscow has refused to extradite London's chief suspect in the case.

The paper said Moscow claims Yury Nikitin swindled about $500 million from a leading Russian tanker company, Sovkomflot, where he was a partner. Authorities say he bribed former executives of the state-controlled shipping company, which provides liquefied natural gas tankers for the energy giant Gazprom, to give him lucrative deals.

The paper said Whitehall sources confirmed that "an arrest request has been sent to the home secretary in London, but has not so far been acted on."

The Russian Embassy has made no comment on the case and a Home Office spokesman said: "We will neither confirm or deny this," the newspaper reported.

Nikitin claims to be the victim of political infighting in Moscow with factions wanting to deprive him of his "legitimate profits," the Guardian said.

The paper said the businessman put up 9 million pounds (about $18 million) cash to move into a mansion in England adding he has at least another 100 million (about $200 million) frozen in Russian bank accounts.

In the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Nikitin was a private oil trader in the Baltic working for a company to ship oil abroad from St. Petersburg's refinery. He was provided with extensive contracts to sell Russian oil abroad.

Russia has unsuccessfully sought the extradition of Chechen separatist emissary Akhmed Zakayev, tycoon Boris Berezovsky wanted on embezzlement charges in the country and given asylum in Britain in 2002, and other businessmen.

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