Political Refugee Denis Solopov could be deported to Russia



Environmental activist and artist Denis Solopov holds mandate refugee status from the UNHCR in Ukraine, yet this, a spokesperson says, is not a decisive argument according to Ukrainian legislation. The Prosecutor General is continuing to consider whether to allow Denis Solopov’s extradition to Russia.  According to new criminal procedure norms, consideration of a case can take up to 18 months and the Russian activist could be held all that time in the Lukyanivsk SIZO [remand unit] in Kyiv.

The Russian law enforcement bodies accuse Denis Solopov of taking part in disturbances near the Khimki Administration building on 28 July 2010.  The protesters – anti-fascists and anarchists pelted the Administration with stones, bottles and firecrackers in protest at the construction of the Moscow – St-Petersburg road through the Khimki Forest. The Moscow region police declared Solopov wanted for questioning after this protest.

On 2 March this year he arrived in Ukraine seeking political asylum. As reported, the Kyiv Office of the UNHCR, after looking at his documents, gave him mandate refugee status. However soon, outside the Ukrainian Migration Service office which Sopotov went to in order to register, he was arrested because he was on the Interpol international wanted list.  He was placed in the Lukyanivsk SIZO.

A hearing on whether to release Denis Sopotov was held on 1 June at the Shevchenkivsk District Court in Kyiv. On that same day, in the “RA” Gallery where there is an exhibition of Kyiv artists, a video address from Denis Sopotov was shown. His friends made the recording before his arrest.

“If you are watching this video, then I have most likely been detained. And detained in Ukraine. Possibly secretly, unlawfully taken to Russia. Unlawfully because I submitted documents applying for political asylum in Ukraine since in another country I couldn’t do this since I am presently on the Interpol wanted list.”

Denis’ father, Viktor Sopotov has come to Ukraine for the court hearing in his son’s case. He hoped to the last that his son would be released on a surety provided. Denis has been in custody for three months. Viktor Sopotov is convinced that there are no grounds for holding Denis in custody.  He says also that the case over Khimki was falsified and that it is police agents who are appearing as witnesses. They have trumped up the case, he says, pulled documents together and declared him on the wanted list. On the wanted list for hooliganism.

In Russia he could face up to 7 years imprisonment.

According to the Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, Yevhen Zakharov the court ruling extending remand in custody was predictable given new norms in Ukrainian legislation. He says that the legal system is not used to such incomprehensible situation, and that it would be different if there were norms regarding extradition in the Criminal Procedure Code. According to the present norms, he can be held in custody until the Prosecutor General’s decision, with this not taking the principle of non-refoulement into account.

Spokesperson for UNHCR  Maxim Butkevych says that the fact that the UNHCR has given Denis Sopotov mandate refugee status cannot have impact on the Prosecutor General’s review of the case. He explains that if the relevant body in Ukraine gives him political refugee status, then he can’t be sent back, but the UNHCR decision that he is a mandate refugee unfortunately is not a decisive argument.

From a report at

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