At least 30 Russian citizens are currently in custody in foreign nations, either serving sentences for their political beliefs or awaiting trial on political charges, Russia’s human rights commissioner has told reporters.
“In my view there are about 30 prisoners of conscience among Russian citizens who are currently abroad, this is the very modest estimation. We understand that these people have not committed anything dangerous to the society, but were put on trial for their position regarding the Republic of Crimea or because of the anti-Russian sanctions,” ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova told reporters on Monday.
When asked to name a few of the prisoners of conscience the ombudsman mentioned the former head of RIA Novosti Ukraine news agency, Kirill Vyshinsky and an activist from the Volunteers of Victory NGO, Yelena Odnovol, who face charges of high treason in Ukraine as well as several Russian citizens who serve sentences in Ukraine.
She also included in the list Russian citizens Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, jailed in the US as a result of sting operations and illegal handover from third countries, as well as student Maria Butina who now faces trial in America for allegedly breaching a ‘foreign agents’ law.
“We hold that the political component was put on the first place when decisions were made in these cases,” Moskalkova said.
In the same statement the ombudsman declined to answer the question on how many political prisoners there are in Russia. She explained this by the fact that when she studied the cases presented by certain mass media as political it turned out that each of them included purely criminal episodes. At the same time, the official agreed that the checks into such cases were necessary as in theory it was possible that the criminal charges were brought up formally in order to punish critics.
The repressions against Russian citizens in several foreign nations have become more frequent after 2013 and this prompted the Russian Foreign Ministry to issue several official warnings. The diplomats asked fellow Russians to study the possibility of their detention or arrest in foreign countries at the request of US special services before going on travel. They also likened several cases of Russian citizens being handed over to the US, in violation of international law and established diplomatic procedure, to kidnapping.
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