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The US Is Trying To Deport A Russian Political Dissident Back To Moscow

  • Grigorii Duralev applied for asylum in the U.S. after becoming the target of political repression, he told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • U.S. immigration officials are allegedly trying to deport him, complying with an Interpol Red Notice request Russia issued for Duralev.
  • Duralev is running out of options in U.S. courts, but he is still fighting; “I prefer to do than not to do,” he said.

The U.S. has allegedly complied with a Russian request to aid in the arrest of a political dissident, engaging in a lengthy court battle that could ultimately see him sent back to Russia, according to the victim.

Grigorii Duralev applied for asylum in the U.S. in January 2016 after he learned that Russia had charged him with large-scale fraud, Duralev told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview. When he responded to his initial interview summons with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested him in the USCIS office and put him in the deportation process unfairly, he told the DCNF.

“When government makes a mistake in their procedures, they don’t have any dignity, even in the United States, to admit those mistakes,” said Duralev.

Facing Deportation

ICE charged Duralev with overstaying his tourist visa, according to court documents shared with the DCNF.

Duralev argued that the official confirmation of a pending asylum application should have protected his stay in the U.S. until the USCIS officer’s decision according to Part 2, Section 3 of the application instructions.

Instead, Duralev spent nearly two years in a detention facility, where he taught himself English and U.S. immigration law before being released on bond in 2020. He missed the birth of his daughter, and his wife eventually divorced him and returned to Russia.

He’s been living on the last of borrowed money from relatives in Russia, studying law at the University of Washington at St. Louis and pleading his case before U.S. courts.

A 9th Circuit Court judge denied his request for asylum in August 2021. He petitioned to have his case heard before the Supreme Court, but the court declined the petition on June 21.

“When the 9th Circuit denied me it was the deepest depression in my life,” he said.

Duralev became a target of the Russian government as a businessman who refused to pay bribes demanded by the local deputy, according to his lawyer in Russia, Dmitri Razmustov, who spoke with the DCNF from Russia via WhatsApp.

The Russian government opened an investigation against “unidentified persons,” using interrogations and death threats as leverage, Duralev claimed. “It was to compel me to pay the bribe; when they understood that I would not pay, they destroyed my business,” he said.

When Duralev uploaded a copy of his master’s thesis criticizing the Russian government to the Office of the President’s website, the government opened a criminal case of fraud against him, he said.

Experts have called this behavior, a politically-motivated and particularly malicious form of corporate raiding, “reiderstvo,” and say it’s common in Russia, according to a report by Dr. Louise Shelley and Judy Deane.

‘Politically Motivated’

In November 2015, while Duralev was vacationing in the U.S., Russia issued a Red Notice through Interpol requesting international assistance in locating and provisionally arresting him, a court-authorized English translation of the document which Duralev shared with the DCNF shows.

Duralev said he suspects the Red Notice is behind the Department of Homeland Security’s determination to charge him.

U.S. law obligates judges to deny asylum if “there are serious reasons for believing” the applicant committed a crime in his home country. The U.S. cannot arrest anyone solely on the basis of a Red Notice, according to the Department of Justice’s Interpol division.

However, the 9th Circuit Court opinion asserted that “the Russian arrest warrant and the Interpol Red Notice… are sufficient to establish the requisite probable cause.

When it comes to Russia, “the warrants that are underlying the Red Notice requests, by and large, are either politically motivated or economically and corruptly motivated,” Michelle Estlund, an acclaimed lawyer who deals with Interpol and criminal issues, told the DCNF.

“My case was denied at all levels because the U.S. government has reason to believe I committed the crime because of [the] Interpol notice from Russia,” said Duralev. “Like the Interpol notice from Russia is the most probative and reliable document in the world.”

Duralev is still fighting in Russia in hopes that shuffling of the Russian bureaucracy might instate an authority more sympathetic to his case. And he now has one last-ditch chance to plead his case before the Board of Immigration Appeals.

“I prefer to do than not to do,” he explained.

The U.S. has grounded all flights to Russia in response to the Ukrainian invsion, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Russia, meaning Duralev can’t be deported until the prohibition is removed. If he does go to Russia, he faces years of imprisonment and likely torture, his lawyer confirmed to the DCNF.

ICE, DHS, USCIS, Interpol and the Russian Embassy to the U.S. did not respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

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