Increasingly Draconian Kremlin Policy Driving Record Flight
A toughening of already draconian Kremlin policy on everything from gay rights to political activism are driving a record-high number of Russians to seek asylum in Europe and the United States, according to multiple Russia experts.
Responding to a recent RFE investigation of data compiled by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Russian political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin attributed the 40 percent uptick in Russian asylum seekers since 2017—the highest since earliest years of the post-Soviet era—to a dramatic tightening of restrictions on everything from social media dialogue to personal lifestyle choices.
He told VOA, "screws are tightening everywhere, citizens are already imprisoned for reposting on social networks."
Although last year's 2,664 new Russian asylum applications in the United States represent a 268-percent increase since 2012, EU immigration data show Germany alone saw 4,885 first time applicants, roughly a third of the 12,600 Russians who sought a toe-hold on the European continent.
While neither USCIS nor EU statistics disclose specific reasons that compel individual applicants to seek asylum, successful candidates must provide proof of an immediate threat to their well-being as a result of discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation or affiliation with particular social or political organizations.
Chechen Court Rejects Appeal, Leaves Human Rights Leader in Jail
The Supreme Court in Russia's Chechnya region on Friday rejected an appeal of the extension of the pretrial detention of the chief of a human rights group. That means Oyub Titiyev, the director of Memorial's Grozny office, will remain in jail until at least June 9.
The 60-year-old Titiyev has been in pretrial detention in Chechnya since his arrest on January 9 for a marijuana-possession charge he and supporters say was fabricated.
According to Western human rights activists, Chechen police systematically plant drugs on critics of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow leader, Ramzan Kadyrov.
In 2014, following public criticism of Kadyrov, activist Ruslan Kutayev was sentenced to four years in prison on drug-possession charges that he flatly denied. In 2016, journalist Zhalaudi Geriyev of the Caucasian Knot website was also arrested on drug charges and sentenced to three years in prison. He remains in custody.