Russia strips Azeri blogger of citizenship and moves to deport him

By Ilya Zhegulev

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has ordered an immigrant blogger critical of the authorities in his native Azerbaijan to be deported there after revoking his Russian citizenship, his family said.

Elvin Isaev, 39, who has held Russian citizenship for almost two decades, has run a video blog about politics in Azerbaijan from St Petersburg where he has lived with his Russian-born wife.

He was detained by about 20 Russian police officers near his home last week, his relatives said.

His wife, Svetlana Isaeva, said police gave no explanation for his detention on Aug. 23 and told her that his Russian passport had been declared invalid by the migration service.

The Kirov district court in St Petersburg ruled on Monday that Isaev should be deported to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, for having broken Russian migration law, according to a court order seen by Reuters.

His wife told Reuters she believed the move against her husband was orchestrated by authorities in Azerbaijan to punish him for his blog.

"He tried to tell people about what was happening in Azerbaijan. It seems this wasn't okay with Azerbaijan's government," she said in a YouTube video appeal in which she called on President Vladimir Putin to intervene in the case.

"This is why authorities in Azerbaijan have it in for him. He's had a lot of death threats. They told him if he didn't shut his mouth then things at the very least would be very bad for him and, at most, that his life could be taken," she said.

Police in St Petersburg and in Azerbaijan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The West has criticized Azerbaijan for what it says is its crackdown on government critics. Azeri officials deny the accusation. Russia has good ties with the former Soviet republic.

Isaev is being held in a facility for migrants and awaiting deportation, his wife said. Isaev's lawyer, Anton Pavlov, said authorities had declined to say why his passport had been declared invalid despite a formal request for an explanation.

Isaev moved to Russia in 1998 and received Russian citizenship in 2001 from his father, also an ethnic Azeri who held Russian citizenship and had lived in southern Russia's region of North Ossetia since 1995, his uncle Kamil Isaev said.

Isaev sought to give up his Azeri citizenship in 2001, but was unable to do so as authorities do not accept such requests because of the country's demographic decline, Pavlov said.

(Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Peter Graff)

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