Russian officer who fled to avoid Ukraine war call-up faces ‘torture’
Russia state TV pundit slams 'bums and deadbeats' mobilisation
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A former member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Federal Guard Service (FSO) could face state-ordered “torture” after attempting to flee the country. Mikhail Zhilin, 36, was detained in Kazakhstan after his claims to political asylum were rejected and now faces extradition back to Russia, where he could be sentenced to a lengthy prison term or forced to fight in Ukraine with Putin’s “death battalions”. The former Russian official was responsible for communications between Putin’s government and other Russian regions and had access to state secrets that barred him from leaving the country.
Mikhail Zhilin was arrested on December 6 by police in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, as he attempted to board a flight to Armenia, according to reports.
Four days previously, he had been found guilty by a court in northeastern Kazakhstan of illegally crossing the border and sentenced to six months probation. He had claimed political asylum but his motion has been rejected.
Following the failed claim, he attempted to fly to Armenia on December 6 but was detained at the airport before he could board the plane.
Zhilin worked as a shift supervisor at the Federal Guard Service’s special communications and information department in Siberia.
Zhilin’s wife, Ekaterina Zhilina, said she believed his political asylum claims had been rejected because Russia placed him on an international wanted list for desertion.
She suggested that, should he be made to return to Russia, the authorities “will force him to go to war in every possible way” despite his opposition to the “special military operation”.
She said: “A man who knows how to hold a weapon is now of great interest to Russia. That is, they will force him to go to war in every possible way.
“We are afraid that torture will also be used for this because it is difficult to convince a person if he has a firm position on the war.”
If extradited back to Russia and convicted of desertion charges, Zhilin could face a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
More concerningly, Siberian journalist Yevgenia Baltatarova, who is currently based in Kazakhstan, suggested on December 8 the former Russian official could be forced to join the “death battalions”.
Her comments were in reference to the vicious mercenary unit of the Wagner Group that has been recruiting convicts to fight in Ukraine.
Ekaterina Zhilina said lawyers and her husband’s relatives were appealing the Kazakh authorities’ decision to reject his political asylum request.
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Kazakhstan, as well as Georgia, Finland and Mongolia, received an influx of Russian citizens fleeing a potential call-up to fight in Ukraine in late September.
Kazakh Interior Minister Marat Akhmetzhanov said they would welcome all Russian citizens except those on Russia’s wanted list, who would be subject to extradition.
After Putin announced a “partial” military mobilisation on September 21, hundreds of thousands of Russians fled to neighbouring nations.
Defence minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia would be targeting 300,000 reservists and ex-military personnel with “certain military specialties and relevant experience”.
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