Russians: Out of 200 Asylum Applications in Bulgaria only 8 were Approved

Society | June 11, 2023, Sunday // 09:47
Bulgaria: Russians: Out of 200 Asylum Applications in Bulgaria only 8 were Approved

From February 24 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine, until April of this year, more than 200 applications were submitted to the Bulgarian State Agency for Refugees requesting the granting of political asylum to citizens of the Russian Federation. Of these, only 8 were approved, according to data from the emigrant organization "For Free Russia", founded in Bulgaria. The state agency silently refuses to confirm or deny this data. And according to Gennady Gudkov - a former opposition deputy in the Russian Duma who now lives in Varna, the commission's activity demonstrates "a disgraceful attitude towards the fate of people threatened with criminal prosecution in Russia because of their declared negative attitude towards Putin's war in Ukraine and his repressive mode."

The last case of refusal to grant humanitarian and refugee status in Bulgaria to a Russian citizen was on May 30 of this year. Then the Supreme Administrative Court finally rejected the application of the Russian citizen Alexander Stotsky.

He arrived in Bulgaria immediately after the start of the war in Ukraine. In his homeland, Stotsky openly stated his oppositional beliefs and condemned Putin's aggression and repression.

He was an observer of the Duma elections of the Russian Federation in the headquarters of the Moscow opposition politicians and a supporter of the "Smart Voting" platform founded by the opposition leader Alexei Navalny. In Bulgaria, Stotsky is among the most active participants in anti-Putin and anti-war protests and a member of "For Free Russia". Since his arrival in our country, he has worked as a volunteer in the centers for providing assistance to refugees from Ukraine. However, his request for asylum in Bulgaria was rejected.

According to the State Agency for Refugees, "the applicant does not substantiate the need for protection and does not indicate reasons for a well-founded fear of persecution in his country of origin. The probability that he was called up for mobilization for the upcoming 'military operation' in Ukraine is insignificant", are some of the reasons stated by the agency. "There are no allegations from which a reasonable inference can be drawn that the foreign national may be exposed to a real danger of serious harm such as the death penalty, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by official authorities or any particular group that the state is unable to control."

"In Russian prisons, people are tortured - morally, physically and sexually", Gennadiy Gudkov commented on these motives of the agency. "Probably, all the testimonies of these abuses, illegally exported to Europe and published on the "" platform, should be provided to the Refugee Agency and the Bulgarian court, in order to finally change their attitude towards Russian citizens seeking political asylum in Bulgaria ", says Gudkov in a conversation with the Bulgarian media "Dnevnik".

The personal stories of the Russian citizens who sought humanitarian and refugee status in Bulgaria are different, but they meet at one point of intersection - they all call Russia's "special military operation" in Ukraine a war, and they do not want to participate in it, and actively resist the repressive regime established by Putin in their country.

Danil Maurin is an active and consistent supporter of the opposition in Russia. Before the refugee agency, he presented documents proving that he was persecuted and politically repressed only because he was among the opponents of the war in Ukraine. Maurin claims that he was repeatedly threatened by the police because of his open civil positions, while on May 18 this year he was sentenced to pay a fine for "public actions aimed at discrediting the armed forces of the Russian Federation". Soon after, he was forced to close his trading company, as a large part of his business was related to supply contracts to state-owned companies, which suddenly stopped. To avoid further repression, Danil Maurin and his wife sold their property in Yekaterinburg, where they lived, and left Russia by flight via Istanbul. Then they settled in Varna.

Irina Dmitrieva arrived in Bulgaria immediately after the start of the war in Ukraine together with her daughter, who suffers from a genetic disease. During her interview with the State Agency for Refugees, she stated that she had left Russia with her daughter because she disagreed with Putin's policies and had openly expressed her displeasure. She was detained during an anti-war rally, and then on the same occasion, her home was searched by the police. The situation worsened even more after the start of the war in Ukraine when anyone who publicly expressed a position against aggression was threatened with imprisonment. Due to a genetic disease, her daughter needed daily medical care and expensive medicines, which in Russia will be denied to her because of the stated position of disapproval of the country's government. Irina Dmitrieva is a member of the board of directors of "For Free Russia".

Pavel Bochkarev is a musician of Bulgarian origin. He refused to serve in the Russian army and arrived in Bulgaria a month after the start of the war in Ukraine. Before the refugee agency, he motivated his request for protection precisely because he did not want to be mobilized, to serve in an army that carried out genocide against a neighboring people, and to be forced to commit war crimes. A few months ago, Bochkarev learned from his relatives in Russia that an administrative case had been opened against his refusal to do military service and he was warned that it could turn into a criminal case, as his refusal to report for military service threatened him with a sentence of 10 years imprisonment. Pavel Bochkarev is a member of the "For Free Russia" organization.

The decisions of the State Agency for Refugees to refuse to grant refugee status in each of these cases are full of contradictions and entire paragraphs of their content are as if written according to a template.

They acknowledge, on the one hand, that: "Russia's authoritarian president dominates the political system together with powerful allies in the security services and business sector. These groups effectively control the parliament, which is not freely elected. The 2020 constitutional amendments formalize the power of the president over the legislature and allow Putin to retain his presidency until 2036, demonstrating his ability to manipulate the system."

But in the very next sentence of their conclusions, the experts of the refugee agency draw a surprising conclusion: "From the cited information it is clear that although Russia is experiencing problems with establishing the rule of law and imposing democratic orders, the country is not in a state of armed conflict (...) Therefore, it should not be considered that, solely on the basis of his presence on the territory of his country of origin, the foreigner would face a real risk of becoming the object of a threat relevant to the granting of humanitarian status".

According to Gennady Gudkov, the refugee agency in Bulgaria refuses to work and take into account the situation in which Russian citizens found themselves after the start of the war in Ukraine.

"They are just used to working according to a template, like with refugees from Syria or Afghanistan", Gudkov said. "The agency's employees have nothing to do with what is happening in Russia. What grounds could there be to deny someone refugee status, after with Russia was recognized as an aggressor, a sponsor of terrorism, excluded from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe! Russia itself withdrew from the system of the International Court of Human Rights, denounced all treaties affecting human rights to which it was a party."

The former deputy in the Russian Duma claims that in its decisions the Bulgarian court simply copied the opinions of the Refugee Agency. "There is no logic and consistency in the reasons with which the court first admits that human rights are being violated in Russia and then he accepts that everything is normal there," says Gudkov.

According to the contents of the Annual Report on the activities of the Asylum Commission to the President and Vice President of Bulgaria, in 2022 it received 10 requests for asylum. Only two of them were submitted by Russian citizens. Nine of the foreign citizens were not granted asylum for various reasons, and it is not clear from the content of the report whether those from the Russian Federation are among them.

In response to clarifying questions about this information, the presidency replied that "the president or vice president is not required to state the grounds for his/her decision" to grant or deny asylum to foreign nationals.

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