Russia has protested the arrest of a billionaire Russian lawmaker in France as the authorities summoned a French diplomat over the case.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s press service said that the charge d’affaires of the French embassy had been summoned to the ministry to declare Russia’s protest to the detention earlier in the day of Suleiman Kerimov in the Riviera resort of Nice in southern France.
A French public prosecutor said in Nice on Wednesday that Kerimov had been arrested in connection with a French tax evasion case and that he would be presented to a judge. He said authorities could have a view to place the 51-year-old billionaire under investigation, something that could expose Kerimov to trial based on the French legal system.
The Kremlin swiftly reacted to the detention of Kerimov, who sits as a lawmaker in the Russian upper house of parliament, saying Moscow will spare no effort to defend his rights.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a Wednesday briefing with reporters that the foreign ministry was closely watching the case.
“Intensive work is now being undertaken by the foreign ministry … We will do everything in our power to protect his lawful interests,” Peskov said.
Local media in Russia cited sources close to Kerimov as saying that he had denied any guilt in the tax evasion case.
Lawmakers in the Russian parliament, however, said the detention was politically motivated.
“All this testifies to an unprecedented demarche by the French,” Rizvan Kurbanov, a lawmaker in the lower house of parliament, said, adding, “We have still not received from the French authorities any explanation of the reasons for the detention of our colleague.”
Russia and France have clashed over the past years over the situations in Ukraine and Syria. Paris has blamed Russia for the conflicts in the two countries. Moscow denies the allegations.