Ongoing imprisonment for abducted asylum seeker
Leonid Razvozzhaev, abducted from the centre of Kyiv while applying for asylum in Ukraine, will still have been held in custody almost exactly a year later. Judge Valentna Levashova from the Basmanny District Court in Moscow has extended his detention until 6 October. He was abducted on 17 October 2012 and has been held in custody ever since in spite of extremely dubious charges arising, effectively, from a television programme on the pro-Kremlin NTV channel.
He and Sergei Udaltsov, leader of Left Front, whose house arrest was also extended to 6 October, are accused of planning and organizing mass disturbances on 6 May on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow.
Razvozzhaev has also been accused of illegally crossing the border which conflicts with information from the Ukrainian side. The other charges seem to have been dropped.
Any promises belatedly given by the Ukrainian authorities to investigate were clearly just words.
Leonid Razvozzhaev was abducted in the middle of the day on 17 October when he stepped out for a bite to eat while completing his application for asylum at a Kyiv partner to the UNHCR partner. His cries for help were heard from the office, and he was seen being forced into a car with Ukrainian number plates. He was then taken across the border into Russia, where on 19 October a Moscow court remanded him in custody for 2 months, with this later extended. There had been no extradition request and Razvozzaev was in Ukraine legally. He was also, effectively, an asylum seeker and therefore under international protection.
The UNHCR were swift in issuing a statement of protest. The Ukrainian authorities said nothing and have never made any protest. The Human Rights Ombudsperson, according to a news report, asked the authorities for information but has since consistently ignored questions regarding their response. Valeria Lutkovska was equally unforthcoming over the forced return of another asylum seeker to the Russian Federation in August 2012.
The response from the Interior Ministry, on the other hand, was simply incredible. On 24 October spokesperson Volodymyr Polishchuk was able to say that no criminal investigation would be initiated since a foreign national had been abducted by a foreign security service and the latter did not share their information.
The clear efforts by the Russian authorities to silence opposition to Putin’s rule and lack of any respect for the law can only highlight Ukraine’s shameful failure to protect an asylum seeker and to take proper measures to investigate his abduction.