Latest on the war in Ukraine
MADRID, Dec. 14 (.) –
The Russian authorities have asked the Kazakh government on Wednesday for the extradition of Mikhail Zhilin, a former member of Vladimir Putin’s Presidential Guard who left the country after the decree of partial mobilization so as not to be sent to Ukraine in the context of the Russian invasion.
If approved, Zhilin’s extradition would mark a before and after by becoming the first publicly known to avoid a draft. Moscow has charged him with desertion and illegal border crossing.
His family, however, assures that, if he returns to Russia, he could face torture, abuse and ill-treatment, according to information from the newspaper ‘The Moscow Times’. His arrest occurred on December 6 at the Astana airport, the Kazakh capital, when he was trying to board a plane bound for Armenia.
Russia later included it in its international search and capture list. Zhilin, 36, could face up to fifteen years in prison if extradited and convicted.
Zhilin worked overseeing communications for the information department of the Presidential Guard in Siberia, which deals with Putin’s contacts in the region. Officials like Zhilin are not allowed to leave the country because of their access to secret or confidential information.
However, just five days after Putin declared the partial mobilization of the reservists in September, Zhilin crossed the border into Kazakhstan without going through any border posts and asked for political asylum after being arrested.
His wife, Yekaterina, who came to Kazakhstan with their children legally, has stated that the case against him was opened a day before he was arrested. A Kazakh court has found him guilty of entering the country illegally and imposed a suspended sentence of six months in prison against him.
Yekaterina has stated that her husband’s lawyers and their relatives are trying to appeal the decision to the authorities since the Kazakh court refused to grant her asylum in November.
“Russia is very interested in men who have never picked up a gun in their lives. They are going to try to force him to go to war, so we are afraid that he will be tortured,” he said.
The Russian authorities rejected Zhilin’s own resignation request after Moscow announced the start of the invasion of Ukraine at the end of February. Kazakhstan, for its part, has pledged not to extradite Russians who have left the country due to partial mobilization unless there is an open criminal investigation against them.