Russia asks Czech Republic to extradite Voina artist

November 2, 2016 10:19 AM EDT

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PRAGUE (Reuters) - Russia has asked the Czech Republic to extradite exiled Russian underground artist Oleg Vorotnikov who has been in the country since being detained by police in September, the Czech Justice Ministry said on Wednesday.

Vorotnikov, the founder of the art collective Voina who fled Russia five years ago, was detained in Prague after a routine identity check and released the next day but ordered to stay in the country to await a possible extradition request from Moscow.

A Czech court will rule on his extradition but Justice Minister Robert Pelikan has the final say. He has been quoted in the local media as saying Vorotnikov was not likely to be returned to Russia.

A ministry spokeswoman declined to say what course the minister would take. She said it may take months before a decision on the extradition request is reached.

Vorotnikov fled Russia in 2011 and was subject to an Interpol warrant due to his group's high-profile stunts, which authorities have denounced as insulting and violent.

His group Voina (War) started in 2007 and gained attention in 2010 by painting a huge phallus on a drawbridge near offices of Russia's FSB security service in St Petersburg.

It came under more pressure that year after members overturned police cars in a protest against abuse of power by the force.

Vorotnikov could face charges of hooliganism in Russia, which carry stiff sentences.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Tom Heneghan)



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