Two top targets of international arrest warrants sought by Moscow said Tuesday they were launching a legal bid to get Russia suspended from Interpol for abusing the global police organisation.
The intervention by investor Bill Browder and Mikhail Khodorkovsky -- a former oil baron who spent 10 years in a Russian jail and now lives in London exile -- came as Putin was on the brink of getting an ally named to a top Interpol post.
Browder has been named in multiple Interpol "Red Notices" initiated by Russia on what he considers overtly political and trumped up charges.
The US-born British national was Russia's biggest foreign investor before falling foul of the authorities and being banned in 2005.
Browder is now best known for waging a legal war against Russian officials he accuses of human rights abuses and being implicated in the death of his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow pretrial detention centre in 2009.
"We intend to begin a legal process to get Russia suspended from the use of Interpol," Browder told reporters.
"The Interpol constitution has very specific rules which forbid countries who are serial abusers from using the system," he said.
International lawyer Ben Emmerson -- a former UN special envoy on counter terrorism and human rights with a long list of prominent clients -- said he expected to file Browder's lawsuit at some point next year.
Senior Russian interior ministry official and current Interpol vice president Alexander Prokopchuk is considered a frontrunner in a presidential vote set to be held at the global police agency's conference in Dubai on Wednesday.
The president serves an administrative function and both Browder and Emmerson said Russia was unlikely to win any extra powers if its man secured the job.
Interpol is actually headed by its German Secretary General Jurgen Stock.
But Emmerson said Prokopchuk's rise to the presidency would highlight the abuses that pervade a police organisation whose charter specifically bans politics.
"The issue does not hinge on the identity of the individual," said Emmerson.
"If (Russia's candidacy goes through), it is the clearest possible signal that the organisation will not be taking steps to tackle the crisis that it is facing."
If Russia's abuses "are to be stopped, somebody needs to be in charge who can is prepared to square up to the abuse and the undermining of the abuse of law and to do something about.
Khodorkovsky said Russia tried to secure his arrest and extradition from London just two years after President Vladimir Putin signed off on his early release from prison on embezzlement charges in 2013.
"I am seriously concerned that if Mr Prokopchuk is elected president of Interpol, then on Kremlin orders, he will be prepared to do absolutely anything," Khodorkovsky said.