Vladimir Ashurkov faces persecution from authorities if returned to Russia
Leading Russian political activist Vladimir Ashurkov today announced he is seeking political asylum in the UK. Ashurkov is the Executive Director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, the most high-level and serious force for genuine political opposition in Russia with domestic support.
Alexei Navalny, who last year ran for mayor of Moscow, is the Chair of the Foundation. With Navalny already under house arrest, the Russian authorities in June issued an arrest warrant – on blatantly fabricated charges – against Ashurkov in another undisguised attempt to stifle all popular opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s despotic regime.
Ashurkov’s asylum application, leaked to Russia’s Izvestiya newspaper, explains that he faces “detention, inhuman conditions, torture, and unfair judicial procedure” if he returns to Russia. Ashurkov has already been subject to a campaign of political persecution in Russia since he rose to prominence as an opposition activist following mass protests against President Vladimir Putin in 2011 and 2012. He was a key figure in attracting financial support for the Anti-Corruption Foundation from among senior figures in the business world, as well as leading its crowdfunding efforts.
Britain must take a firm line against the Kremlin’s illiberal abuse of Russian and international law enforcement institutions to pursue political opponents. Offering Ashurkov a safe haven in the United Kingdom is imperative to protect him from persecution. Should he have to return to Russia he would be placed into Russia’s abysmal prison system, in which the abuse of prisoners is so rampant that complaints relating to the use of torture in Russian jails take up a third of cases in the European Court of Human Rights.
Dr Andrew Foxall, Director of the Russia Studies Centre at HJS, commented:
“The case against Ashurkov is clearly politically motivated, driven by the Russian authorities’ attempts to shut down any dissenting voices in the country. The UK government must not be complicit in Putin’s authoritarianism and we should ensure Ashurkov is protected from the Kremlin’s arbitrary and brutal ‘justice’.”