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Kremlin Vows to Defend Russian Oligarch Who Is Under Arrest in France

FILE - Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, then-Anzhi Makhachkala's owner, watches the Europa League soccer match between Anzhi Makhachkala and AZ Alkmaar at Lokomotiv stadium in Moscow, Russia, Aug. 23, 2012.

Russia said Wednesday it will make every effort to defend Russian billionaire businessman and Senator Suleiman Kerimov, who was arrested in France Monday in connection with a tax evasion case.

A public prosecutor said in Nice Wednesday Kerimov would appear in court to be formally placed under judicial investigation, which frequently results in a trial in France.

"We will do everything in our power to protect his lawful interests," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

A French judicial source said Kerimov faces accusations of purchasing several luxury homes on the French Riviera using shell companies, which would have enabled him to reduce his tax obligations to France.

Kerimov's arrest prompted an angry response from Russian members of parliament, who approved a resolution denouncing it as a violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Russia's state-run Rossiya 24 TV station cited an unnamed source as saying Kerimov had denied any guilt.

Kerimov's family controls Polyus, Russia's biggest gold producer. The 51-year-old Russian billionaire built Polyus during the privatizations that followed the dissolution of the Soviet Union through debt, risk and political connections.

Forbes magazine listed Kerimov as Russia's 21st richest person with a net worth of about $6.7 billion.