Russia is preparing a request for Georgia to extradite a Russian soldier who fled his military unit in South Ossetia in January, but has not yet filed the order, a military investigator said on Thursday.
Lt. Gen. Alexander Sorochkin, head of the Military Investigation Department at Russia's Investigation Committee, said at a press conference on Thursday that an extradition order was being prepared for Jr. Sgt. Alexander Glukhov, who is facing charges for desertion.
"Russia has so far not demanded his [Glukhov's] extradition, but this is being looked into," Sorochkin said.
Glukhov left his unit in South Ossetia in late January and approached Georgian police, requesting asylum. He said his actions should not be seen as politically motivated, as he would have done the same had his army unit been deployed near any other foreign border.
Chief military prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky said last week that Russia would send Georgia an extradition request for Glukhov in the near future. "We will ask for him to be returned to us," Fridinsky said.
Georgia said earlier that Glukhov had requested political asylum. Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Shota Utiashvili also said Tbilisi would not hand him over to Russia until consideration of his asylum request had been completed.
The Russian Defense Ministry has said Glukhov was seized by Georgian special services and forcibly taken to Tbilisi, where he was subjected to moral or physical pressure. However, Glukhov has denied being put under any pressure, saying he had fled because of intolerable conditions in his unit.
Under Russian law, desertion is punishable by up to seven years in prison, but a first-time offender who has deserted without his weapon, on his own, or with a serious reason for his action, may be exempted from punishment.