Another Russian soldier seeks asylum in Georgia
By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, December 23
A soldier of the Russian Occupation Army abandoned his military post in the village of Perevi on the administrative border with breakaway South Ossetia on December 21. “I have left my subdivision for political reasons and crossed the border to ask for political asylum from the Georgian Government,” explained Vitali Khripun.
Khripun had been transferred from Russia to the village of Sinaguro in the Sachkhere Region in 2008 and later sent to Tskhinvali. His is the third case of a Russian soldier escaping and asking for asylum in Georgia and the reason he gave is the same as in the two previous cases. “No one respects you and you are forced to obey insulting commands. Corruption and bribery are commonplace and you have no right to say a word, let alone express discontent, as there are enough arms and bullets to finish you off,” Khripun stated.
The first such escapee was Alexander Glukhov, a junior sergeant who asked for Georgian citizenship. The Russian General Prosecutor’s Office has branded him a deserter under Russian law and even asked for his extradition. The second was Dimitry Artemiev, who escaped from Perevi to the nearest village and asked local residents for help. He managed to get to Tbilisi with the support of United Nations representatives.
25 year-old Khripun has already presented his documents to the relevant officials and been given the status of asylum seeker. “Georgia has signed the UN Convention on Refugees. We will observe the whole process undertaken and give our recommendations,” commented Admena Karakhanina from the UN High Commission for Refugees.
The Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation of Georgia will decide whether to grant Khripun political asylum. This process takes four months, but the soldier will receive support from the Government. “The Khripun case demonstrates that the rough conditions the occupiers give their troops and the treatment of the Georgian and South Ossetian populations in the village were an assault on his sense of morals," stated Irakli Kokaia, the head of the Refugee and Repatriation Department of the Ministry.
Russian Federal Security Service staff in the breakaway region have said that Vitaly Khripun went missing on the night of December 20-21. They said that soldiers in the breakaway region found out later that he had been detained. “The Georgian side was ready to return this serviceman to us, but later said that it was postponing this handover for unspecified period,” stated an official from the Russian Intelligence Service in South Ossetia.
The Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation of Georgia began discussing the asylum request on December 22. “We will of course discuss the appeal for shelter from the Russian soldier. But this fact just stresses how successfully the reforms are going in the Russian Army,” Temur Iakobashvili, State Minister for Reintegration Issues has stated. Koba Subeliani, Minister of Refugees and Accommodation, promised to make the decision on the basis of the UN Convention. “One thing is clear - this person has an official right to ask for shelter and we will give him support. He was given the status of asylum seeker on the very first day,” said the Minister.