Denis Sopolov, Khimki Forest defender still in danger of extradition to Russia

As reported, Denis Sopolov came to Ukraine fearing persecution in the Russian Federation in connection with protests over the destruction of the Khimki forest in the Moscow region. An application for his remand in custody pending a decision on an extradition request is soon to be heard by a Kyiv court, and both Ukrainian and Russian human rights activists are seeking to get him released and all threat of extradition removed. They are presently endeavouring to get Denis released on a surety from others.

On his arrival in Ukraine, Denis Sopolov approached the UNHCR Office which examined the evidence and decided that there were grounds for believing that Denis’s prosecution by the authorities was politically motivated. They therefore declared him a mandate refugee.


Denis Sopolov then turned to the Kyiv Department of the Migration Service. He presented the same documents that he had shown the UNHCR and concealed nothing, including the fact that he was being sought by the RF authorities for prosecution over the “Khimki case” Nonetheless, unlike the UNHCR, Ukraine’s State Committee on Nationalities and Religion decided that Sopolov had no grounds for fearing persecution in the Russian Federation and refused him refugee status.


On 2 March 2011 on the day that he was refused asylum, he was placed in custody. This was clearly in order enable his extradition to the RF since there were no other grounds. 


The events around the destruction of Khimki Forest have been ugly and the authorities have not gathered out their duty to defend the rights of the protesters. 


The following is from an article published just two weeks ago entitled: New attacks on Khimki Forest activists lay groundwork to new summer of clashes “Russian environmental activists said Friday they had been repeatedly attacked by security guards and unknown “goons” while trying to prevent logging in a Moscow region’s Khimki forest for a disputed highway.


The accusations follow on another incident on May 4 when activists were beaten and an expensive forest harvester torched Wednesday — all with little apparent reaction from police.”


Denis Sokolov is a mandate refugee and must not be extradited.  Whatever prompted the Ukrainian Committee to reach a different conclusion, the UNHCR studied the material and is certain that there were grounds to grant him status which precludes extradition.

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