News / Europe

New Generation of Russian Dissidents Flees to West

James Brooke
Last May 6, thousands of Russians protested the inauguration next day of Vladimir Putin as president. Coming as the culmination of six months of protest, Moscow's pre-inaugural demonstration turned violent.

Within weeks, 19 protesters were facing legal charges, and police were investigating half of a newly elected 45-member Opposition Coordination Council.

As the police net tightened, one protest leader, Leonid Razovzzhayev, did something new for this generation of Russian dissidents: he made a run for it. He applied for U.N. refugee status in neighboring Ukraine.

But the same day he applied for refugee status in Kyiv, he stepped out of a law office for coffee. Then he vanished.

A few days later, Razovzzhayev reappeared - in Moscow. As he was being transferred from a prison van to a courtroom, he managed to shout to reporters: "Tell people I was tortured. They promised to kill me. They tortured me for two days. I was kidnapped in Ukraine."

Maksym Butkevych, a Ukrainian human-rights activist, said in Kyiv: “We believe that until we receive at least some clear explanation of what happened to Leonid, we consider him to be abducted.”

“It sends a very clear signal to people who try to get asylum in Ukraine that Ukraine is not a safe country for asylum seekers and refugees. And it is not, I’m afraid,” said Butkevych, who is project coordinator for the No Borders Social Action Center.

Agreement came on Wednesday from Oldrich Andrysek, the regional representative for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. He told reporters in Kyiv: “At this stage, Ukraine cannot be considered a safe country for all refugees.”

In Moscow, Yulia Razozzhayeva worries about her husband, who is now in jail in Irkutsk, in the middle of Siberia.

“I am worried for his life,” she said of her husband. “The harshest pretrial detention center is in Irkutsk, where they can apply physiological and physical torture. Thank God, there hasn’t yet been any physical abuse. But it’s a very harsh pretrial detention facility.”

Russia’s reach goes further than Ukraine.

Last month, Alexander Dolmatov, one of the Moscow protesters, committed suicide in a holding cell near Rotterdam airport. Dutch authorities had just denied his asylum request. His mother says that Russian intelligence agents told Dolmatov, a missile engineer, that he would face treason charges back home.

Another fugitive Russian protester, Anastasia Rybachenko, is more relaxed. She spoke from Estonia, where she is completing her university studies.

“I am not really worried about safety, in terms of a similar situation to the one of Razvozzvhaev,” she said. “Estonia is in the EU, and I don’t think Russia would be able to kidnap anyone from here.”
 
Suren Gazaryan, another member of Estonia’s growing Russian exile community, also feels safe in Estonia. But Gazaryan, an environmentalist, sees little change ahead for Russia.
 
"I think that until this system - Putin's system - ceases to exist, it's very doubtful I will be able to return,” said Gazaryan. “For Russia, however, it will take a long time to become a free country. It has all to do with Putin.”

A prison cell in Siberia?

Or exile in the West?

Russian dissidents faced this choice under the czars, and under the rulers of the Soviet Union.

Now this choice has returned to Russia under President Putin.

You May Like

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid