When the homeland became more dangerous than the foreign land: three stories of people who fled from Russia from the persecution of the authorities
"I left my SIM card at home." The stories of people who were able to leave Russia, despite the persecution, reports Snob.
Gulagu.net informant Sergei Savelyev, who removed the torture archive from Russia, was evacuated through Africa to France.
In addition to him, over the past 10 years, more than 100 people were forced to leave the country.
Three of them told how they observed conspiracy, how a Russian citizen can understand that it is time to evacuate, and what documents will help to obtain political asylum.
He took part in the "March of Dissent" and organized actions in his Rostov-on-Don.
They quickly became interested in him - before the shares, he almost always noticed surveillance.
Unknown persons cut his tires, several times they called and said that they knew where he lived.
A local journalist told how a law enforcement officer came to her and demanded to publish an article that Boris allegedly had a non-traditional sexual orientation. From time to time, before the rallies, he was detained and an administrative arrest was ordered.
“One day in November 2014 - at about 7 am - people started pounding at my door. Who can knock so early? And normal people call before coming. Therefore, I pretended that I was not at home - so I could gain time and think about how to react to a knock, says Boris. -The door was pounded for about three hours. Then, apparently, they got tired and left ”.
A few days later he was driving through Rostov.
Most likely, his location was calculated by a signal from a mobile phone, and when he stopped, two officers of the Center for Combating Extremism of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, whom Boris knew by sight, approached the car.
They immediately presented a screenshot with his commentary on LiveJournal. And they offered to sign a paper that it was he who left the comment.
“They said it was“ bullshit, and the fine will be only a thousand rubles. ” But I referred to the 51st article of the Constitution and refused to sign. Then they took out the second screenshot: “This is more serious,” they immediately posted. (That is, if I signed the first screen, then the second would automatically be attributed to me). The commentary on LiveJournal referred to the imprisonment of journalist Sergei Reznik, but it coincided that he was taken into custody on the birthday of my late father, ”says Boris.
“I was very angry and overdid it in my commentary (upon the fact of publication, a case was opened under the articles“ extremism ”and“ insulting a representative of the authorities ”). I was under great stress while awaiting criminal charges against me. Before May 9, I received a call from the UK and demanded to urgently appear for interrogation as a witness according to the comments (they do this on purpose before the holidays so that you are on your nerves so that you can ruin the whole weekend). But my lawyer from Agora, Oleg Agafonov, managed to persuade them to postpone the interrogation until a weekday, ”recalls Boris.
Then they were already imprisoned for posts on the Internet, although not as often as now. There was nothing against him, because he was a witness. But he realized that prison could await him.
This was the second criminal case against Boris (the first was in 2007 for installing an unlicensed program on a PC) - and he knew perfectly well what was going to happen soon.
“I had to leave, although there were cases when activists were detained at the Rostov-on-Don airport. Therefore, I left my phone at home turned on along with a SIM card, and a friend took me to Krasnodar by car. It was safer to fly out of there, I thought, because the security forces there are subordinate to other regional chiefs, and their concerns are different from those of the Rostov police, ”he says.
He did not have a visa. He was looking for a transshipment point and chose Turkey: "This country is relatively civilized, and you do not need a visa."
Back in Rostov-on-Don, he booked an inexpensive hotel in the center of Istanbul. He only had a small gym bag with him: a change of underwear, a thin rain jacket and a few shirts. So he lived in Istanbul for five weeks.
During this time, they again came to his home in Rostov with a search.
The siloviki thought he was hiding somewhere in Russia.
“He will not get out of the country,” they said when they searched my wife. In Istanbul, I have already used a Turkish SIM card, ”Boris recalls.
The plan was as follows: fly from Istanbul to some Latin American country with a simple visa regime, but at the same time with a transfer in Germany. He planned to ask for asylum there, but if something went wrong and he was not allowed to go to Germany, he would fly further to Mexico.
Mexico was the best fit - Russians could live there on an electronic visa, which can be printed out after filling out a questionnaire on the Internet.
In addition, he could go there to the American border and surrender to the police, asking for political asylum. He ended up taking a flight via Frankfurt am Main. There he got off the plane, at the exit from the "pipe" he was met by about 15 police officers.
“I smiled at them in a relaxed way and said that I was flying to Mexico. I was allowed into the transit zone. I called my wife, consulted on the phone with a human rights activist I knew, stood in line at the border service and said that I was asking for political asylum. The employee of the service began to look for a German visa in my passport, but I said that it was not there, ”he says.
Then he was taken to the police station, interrogated, described things, searched (from the forbidden, he initially had only a Swiss knife, but it was taken away at the Turkish airport). Then he was taken to the airport prison in the transit zone.
“It is difficult to call this place a prison - they seized my phone, apologizing that it was forbidden to take pictures in the prison, there was excellent plumbing, well fed, satellite TV worked, you could play tennis and basketball. I was given a phone card to call Russia. And five days later there was an interview with the police and an interpreter - they tried to find out whether I was connected with politics. Already in the middle of the interview, I was told that I would go to a camp for migrants, that is, they would let me go to Germany, ”says Boris.
“The territory of the camp is guarded, you can go out, but there is control, for example, you cannot bring alcohol. I went through two more camps, and then they settled me in a hostel, where it became easier - there was no control on deposit, they gave me about 320 euros a month for living, this is more than I previously received at two jobs in Rostov. But I was saving. Because I had not yet received refugee status and assumed that I would need money to go somewhere else. For about a year and a half, I was expecting a new interview with the migration service; during this time I acquired some furniture, bought a TV and a bicycle, ”says Boris.
In September 2016, he was finally invited for an interview. It lasted about six hours.
“It was very difficult psychologically to endure it, after it I could hardly sit on the bench and came to my senses,” recalls the “fugitive”.
Six months later, he was given political asylum, but he did not tell anyone about it, because his family remained in Russia. Boris was afraid that they might do something to her.
When he realized that he could only go to Germany, he was not happy: “Both of my grandfathers died in World War II. But then, communicating with the Germans, I realized that these were completely different people - sympathetic, kind, ready to help. Who am I to them? I came and sat on the allowance. However, I have never encountered a bad attitude towards myself. "
A recognized political emigrant can bring his family to Germany, which he used.
“For three and a half months, the three of us lived in a 13-meter room, and then I was lucky - I rented an apartment, which is very difficult for a person on benefits to do. The Germans do not want to rent property to people on social benefits. But one family from Ukraine came into our position, ”recalls Boris.
Refugees in Germany are legally allowed to work three months after arrival.
But without obtaining refugee status, employers hardly find employment. Another complication is that there are no free German courses for Russians. Therefore, at first he went to free courses at the church, but learning German in German is very difficult.
He did not understand anything, knew before arrival and was horrified when someone spoke to him in German.
“A friend told me about a Russian-speaking teacher in a neighboring town. She allowed me to study for free, after which I passed the exam for the B1 level (a language level that allows you to communicate fluently in German without using professional terms), ”says Boris.
After receiving asylum, they begin to pay a little more money (like a refugee) and provide professional guidance. At first, he delivered free newspapers - for this they paid about 9,5 euros per hour.
“This is such a walk for money,” says Boris.
But he received the recognition of his diploma in automation and electronics at the Engineering Chamber and passed the B2 exam (a language level that assumes free communication by profession).
Then he began to email offers to large companies to become their employees. The norm is that you are mostly denied. But at the end of 2018, he was called for an interview and was hired as an engineer at the FAIR scientific institute, which studies elementary particles, including in the field of nuclear physics.
Boris believes that if he had not left, he would have been imprisoned for three or four years in Russia.
“I know that many participants in the protest movement in Russia have now gone to the kitchens. And in general, I think they did the right thing. If I were young, I would not be afraid to go to jail. But when everything happened, I was already over 50, and this is a completely different outlook on life. I understood that a Russian prison is an excellent chance to shorten life, for example, to contract tuberculosis in it. If they would put me in jail, the press would write about me for a week or two, and then they would forget. I will go out sick, but somehow I still have to feed my family. Now I have a refugee passport with which I can travel around the world, except Russia. But I do not regret the choice. Miss birches? There are plenty of birches here, too, ”summed up Boris
“We were friends with Boris Nemtsov and were together with him at the rally on May 6, 2012 on Bolotnaya Square. When he and Alexei Navalny were detained, the police stormed; stones and pieces of asphalt from the protesters flew into it. I tried to convince people that this should not be done. But people were already too excited. It was not possible to convince them, ”says Paul.
And when the Swamp Business appeared, he was vacationing abroad - from afar it was not clear to him what this business was, what consequences it might have.
From there it seemed to him that this is a successful movement and they will achieve changes in the future. He returned to Moscow. I continued to go to protest actions.
“But just at this time there was a strong 'smell of fried'. I lived at different addresses in Moscow. Moreover, the security forces began to pass over them when I was leaving them. I received summons to investigators in the Bolotnoye case, and a police car stood at the registration address every day. I assumed that I could become the accused, ”says Pavel.
Friends tried to persuade him to leave, and he did not think for long - he realized that as an IT specialist he could be useful for the opposition and abroad.
Pavel says that he decided to leave through Belarus to Ukraine, then there was still no border and there were no common bases - even if he was wanted in Russia, this information did not immediately reach the local police.
“And even now the information does not come immediately - people leave this route anyway. And then a friend took me by car to Belarus. The next morning I left her by train for Ukraine. I chose Ukraine, because I had a passport, but did not have a Schengen visa. In addition, Ukraine was the closest foreign country, and in general I did not plan to leave for a long time - I wanted to see from there what would happen in Russia. And three months later - in September - I left for Africa, ”Pavel said.
He chose Mozambique.
He decided that if he left Russia, then he needed to learn something new, travel to exotic countries, and just then they found gas in Mozambique, European companies came to him, many startups appeared and it was possible to find work.
He started a small company there that created websites.
It was not difficult for him to socialize - very friendly and friendly people live in Mozambique. He studied Portuguese.
“Of course, there is corruption, but it concerns business only when it has already developed - then they are forced to introduce a co-manager from the ruling party or someone close to it into the company. But with my startup I was very far from that, ”says Pavel.
There was a problem in Mozambique: a visa was not needed to enter, but a residence permit was required to work. A year later, he was told that he needed to obtain a work visa, which is issued only in Russia.
“The alternative was to give a bribe. The local mediator with the authorities asked for a thousand euros for a residence permit for a year, but on principle I do not accept bribes, ”says Pavel.
After refusing to give money, he began to look towards the European Union, because there is a decent standard of living.
Plus, just then, the EU foreign policy department issued a statement that it supports those who are persecuted in the Bolotnaya case.
And from all countries, he chose Portugal, because he studied the language, because it is warmer there than in other European countries, and good conditions for refugees.
Even in contrast to Spain: in Portugal, for example, those who seek asylum do not have their passport taken away, as in a neighboring country.
They are given a temporary residence permit with which they can travel even outside Europe. In addition, while the decision on asylum is being made, it is possible to work in Portugal.
To begin with, he received a tourist visa (according to the Dublin agreement, he must apply for asylum in the very country that issued the visa to me). On the very first day, he went to the migration service and asked for it.
In response, the migration service asked him about the route he took when he left Russia. In his asylum application, he attached his photographs from Bolotnaya Square, summons to the IC, certificates from the emergency room (after the forceful arrest by the police).
In addition, he had letters from Boris Nemtsov, Alexei Navalny and Ilya Yashin, who supported him. But only six months later he was invited for an interview, where he told the story of his persecution, after which it was decided that he was a political refugee.
First, he chose Porto for living, where it is much cheaper than in the capital: he rented an apartment for 250 euros.
“Now for this money you can only rent a room. I sent out resumes, went to interviews, told them that I was a political emigrant, it aroused sympathy - the Portuguese are freedom-loving people and hardly imagine that someone could be imprisoned for a peaceful rally, ”says Pavel.
He continues his opposition activities in Portugal. He works with various funds and, if possible, helps his friends from Russia with websites.
“I did not persuade my acquaintances, including Boris Nemtsov, to leave the country. Firstly, they didn’t get him involved in the Bolotnaya case, and it was useless to persuade him, because he kept repeating that he would not go anywhere, ”he recalls.
Pavel says that in general, his professional career in Russia was interrupted, in this sense he became poorer.
But now he has a new career in Portugal. He thinks that it is risky to go home, because now, in order to persecute someone, there is no need for a reason.
“In the 2011s, I joined Russian nationalists, and in 23 I participated in the program“ Stop feeding the Caucasus ”(on April XNUMX, an agreed rally was held in the center of Moscow, and in the fall of the same year, a whole propaganda campaign was carried out under this slogan). Then I took part in the “Russian March”, and in December, together with the nationalists, I joined in general civil protests against the results of the elections to the State Duma, ”says Daniel.
On December 5, 2011, after the rally at Chistye Prudy, people went towards the Lubyanka and the Central Election Commission. Later, the crowd was divided, and people, breaking into different columns, began to spread around the city. One of these columns was led by Daniel.
He was detained and taken to the Tverskoy police station.
“There I was taken out of the cell and introduced to the gentleman, who said: I am the one who took Vladimir Linderman to Latvia (Linderman, if anyone does not remember, is Eduard Limonov's former NBP deputy, who was expelled to Latvia as a result of some special operation). This gentleman showed me a certificate, which stated that he works in the Main Directorate for Combating Extremism of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He said that he was dealing with Russian nationalists. And I, they say, need to cooperate with the authorities: “After you have served here, we must start communicating,” he said. I replied that I do not support such forms of cooperation, to which he replied that the activity that I am doing leads in Russia to only two things - to prison or to death, ”says Daniel.
As a result, he was fined in court, and he was released.
This man no longer appeared in his life, but instead a criminal case appeared against Daniel on charges of murder.
On March 1, 2012, he was informed about this by an acquaintance who was summoned to Center “E”.
And on December 22, he was already arrested after the storming of his apartment.
“This event looked very strange. In the morning my wife came up to me and said that the Tajik janitor was asking me to move the car. At first I was going to go outside, but then I thought: how could a janitor possibly know my car if I was not registered there? This raised doubts. I began to think. However, five minutes later they began to break at our door and shout: "Open!" If you just open the door to the cops, they can start hitting. Therefore, I said that I would open it later, and began to call my relatives, politicians, journalists and lawyers - these actions could protect me in case of arrest. First, they broke down the door to the vestibule. And when they began to break the second door, I myself invited them to open it, ”recalls Daniel.
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The search began. Nobody explained what he was on.
Daniel was not even shown the employees' IDs. They did not show a single document in the case at all. Then he was taken to the investigation department. There was a proposal for cooperation.
“And after my refusal, a guy in a leather jacket (it seemed to me that he was on drugs) was brought into the office, who, under the strict guidance of the operas who were present in the room, allegedly identified me as the killer of his friend. After that, I was sent to custody, I spent two years and seven months in a pre-trial detention center. Later I learned that the witness, who allegedly identified me as the killer, committed ten burglaries and received a suspended sentence for this, ”says Daniel.
In 2013, there was a trial. Daniel took a very active position in the case, a lot was written about him. As a result, the murder charges against him were rejected and found guilty of hooliganism, but in honor of the anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution, he was amnestied in the courtroom.
It was a signal for him to leave Russia - through his acquaintances wishes to leave the country were conveyed to him: “Now I don’t want to give names, but someday I will do it, and you will be amazed at the high level at which my question was resolved.”
“All this time, my family and I were watched demonstratively. I had to decide where to go. Because I learned from my own experience what opportunities the special services have to fabricate criminal cases. Therefore, the second time I decided not to test their strength - people told me that I needed to leave quickly, in about a week, and I did not have an American or European visa, ”recalls Daniel.
He decided that if he just got out of prison, where he was sitting without sun, light and fresh air, then why not go to a resort country and have a little rest.
He chose Thailand. But there he was also followed.
“And they did it very clumsily. Imagine that every day the same person comes to a restaurant (always empty) where you are having dinner, who invariably takes a beer or juice, sits down next to him and puts a handbag in front of him, which may contain a voice recorder or a camera. And so it sits. What is this if not surveillance? This is the style of outdoor surveillance that I saw back in Russia. And since Thailand is not a very safe country, where they can plant drugs or arrange some other nasty thing, I decided that I had to leave it, ”says Daniel.
He considered Argentina, but it is "very far and risky."
Human rights activists also offered him the United States, but he thought that it was also far away - having moved there, he risked never seeing his parents, who find it difficult to move across the ocean.
They also offered Sweden. But then left-liberal discourse prevailed in it - and it seemed to Daniel that he did not suit them with his nationalist background.
“I chose Lithuania. Lithuania is a conservative country.
They are quite loyal to nationalists, in addition, there were human rights activists in Lithuania who helped me get a visa. This country is close to Russia, so relatives can quickly arrive.
Lithuania is largely a Russian-speaking country, which makes it easier to adapt to a new place. And there was also a long joint history of Lithuania and Russia. It attracted me too, ”said Daniel.
He flew there via Georgia (this route is connected with the peculiarities of the work of human rights defenders who helped him, about which he cannot spread publicly).
For some time he thought about what to do next - he would not want to be tied to one country. He did not rule out that I would come to Russia.
But it turned out that an appeal was filed against the decision of the Russian court, which amnestied him, that is, Moscow was planning to revive the case. Daniel was alarmed by this, and I asked for asylum.
At first, his family helped him.
“In addition, I am a lawyer, and I still have some earnings. This was enough for life. I tried myself in various low-paid jobs in Lithuania, and in the end I started working in the structure of the Free Russia forum, ”says Daniel.
“It seems to me that our government has a common approach to the“ political ”- it lies in the fact that if something does not suit you, the exit doors are always open - they do not interfere with leaving Russia,” concluded Daniel.
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