Russian dissident Vladimir Ashurkov given UK asylum

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Vladimir Ashurkov - file picImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Vladimir Ashurkov says the Russian state has targeted him on political grounds

A key ally of Russian anti-Kremlin campaigner Alexei Navalny - Vladimir Ashurkov - has been granted political asylum in the UK.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Ashurkov said his partner Alexandrina Markvo was with him and was also seeking UK asylum.

The couple flew to the UK last May.

Russian prosecutors accuse Mr Ashurkov of stealing contributions to Navalny's campaign for the 2013 Moscow mayoral elections. Navalny failed in his bid. He is under house arrest in Moscow.

Navalny, a vociferous critic of President Vladimir Putin, has rejected allegations that Mr Ashurkov did anything wrong.

Ms Markvo is also being prosecuted by Russian authorities. She is accused of embezzlement in connection with a Moscow book festival.

In a tweet last year, Mr Ashurkov said he wanted asylum because of "political persecution by the Russian authorities".

Mr Ashurkov, a former banker, is executive director of Navalny's anti-corruption fund.

Last July the Russian Investigative Committee - a state body modelled on the United States FBI - issued an arrest warrant for Mr Ashurkov. At the time Navalny dismissed allegations that Mr Ashurkov had stolen campaign contributions.

Navalny is famous for using social media to mock the establishment loyal to President Putin. He is seen as a thorn in the side of Mr Putin, whom he accuses of fostering widespread corruption.

During Mr Putin's crackdown on political opponents in Russia a number of prominent dissidents have been given asylum in the UK. Among them were former intelligence agent Alexander Litvinenko and former Putin ally Boris Berezovsky, both now dead.