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MOSCOW, Jan 11 — Russian satirical writer and Kremlin critic Viktor Shenderovich said today he had left Russia fearing that a criminal case for slander would be opened against him after his designation by the authorities as a “foreign agent”.

Shenderovich, 63, did not say where he had gone and did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

“(My) departure is exactly what the Kremlin has been hinting I do over the last 20 years of endless and demonstrative criminality directed at me,” Shenderovich wrote on Facebook.

There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin.

Shenderovich was in December labelled a “foreign agent” by the Justice Ministry in a crackdown on opposition figures that stepped up last year. The term has negative Soviet-era connotations and its bearers face arduous labelling and bureaucratic requirements.

He has been at odds with the authorities for years.

His old “Puppets” political satire programme on national television lampooned politicians including President Vladimir Putin who had just come to power at the turn of the century. The show was taken off air in 2002.

A journalist, Shenderovich’s biting criticism of the state of Russian politics was eventually only heard on a handful of outlets like Moscow’s liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy or on the TV Rain online news channel.

He was sued last year by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman accused by the United States of election meddling and of spreading malign influence around the world, something he denies. Shenderovich was ordered to pay out 100,000 roubles (RM5,600) for comments he made on Ekho Moskvy.

On Dec. 30, Prigozhin’s company Konkord said it was pursuing criminal action and that Shenderovich could face up to five years in jail. — Reuters

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