Russian who burned passport in Bulgaria over Ukraine war wins appeal against extradition

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By Chris Harris  & Aleksandar Brezar
Alexey Alchin
Alexey Alchin   -   Copyright  Credit: Personal archive   -  

A court in Bulgaria has today stopped the extradition of a Russian who burned his passport in protest at Moscow's war in Ukraine.

Alexey Alchin won his appeal against being sent back to Russia on what he claims are trumped-up tax evasion charges.

Human rights activists told Euronews the bid to have Alchin extradited was part of Russian moves to silence critics of the invasion.

Alchin, 46, publicly burned his Russian passport in Varna in late February in protest over Russia's full-scale invasion of its western neighbour. 

A few months later, authorities in Moscow demanded his extradition, claiming that he defrauded the state by failing to pay outstanding VAT debts amounting to more than 282.5 million roubles (€4.5m) in late 2015.

He denies any wrongdoing.

Earlier in August, a court in Varna had ordered his extradition, which would have made Bulgaria the first EU country to hand over a Russian national to Moscow since the start of the invasion in February. 

But on Thursday, an appeal court overturned the ruling. 

"Today, the Varna Court of Appeal showed the whole world that Bulgaria adheres to European principles - principles of freedom, human rights and the right to human life," said Alchin outside the court, reported Euronews Bulgaria

"And since yesterday was Ukraine's independence day, I congratulate the Ukrainian people on this day. I wish them not to give up, to hold on, to fight to the end. I also want to appeal to Alexei Navalny to behave and not give up. Because he is our leader in the fight against Putin's regime."

His partner Olga Gyurova told Euronews after the verdict that Alchin and her were "really happy and have still not processed [Thursday's] events".

"We are very glad that the Bulgarian court, which represents the Bulgarian people, by this decision, has demonstrated the primacy of European values ​​in Bulgaria," she said.

"The court’s position is evidence of the triumph of democracy in the country we live in, and we are glad that human rights are the main principle here -- including the right to life, the right to free speech, the right to liberty and security of the person, the right to express an opinion and political views."