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A student from Turkmenistan who criticized the government of his country was detained at Sheremetyevo Airport

A student from Turkmenistan who criticized the government of his country was detained at Sheremetyevo Airport

He asks for asylum in Russia.

On the evening of March 2, a 27-year-old student from Turkmenistan, Rozgeldy Choliev, known for his critical Internet publications about the policies of the Turkmen authorities, was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.

Choliev came to study in Russia in 2018. In September 2020, he was expelled from the university in Karachay-Cherkessia. Previously, he was subjected to pressure from the administration of a Russian university because of his publications, and his relatives in Turkmenistan faced threats from intelligence officers.

In recent hours, there has been a flood of conflicting reports related to Choliev's detention.

According to updated data, yesterday he flew to Moscow from Istanbul on an «Aeroflot» flight at about seven o'clock in the evening, having a valid Russian visa in his passport. Border guards approached him at passport control and tried to send him back to Turkey. However, after he stated that he was seeking asylum and mentioned publications about his case by human rights organizations, he was not deported.

According to the latest report, this morning he was invited to interview twice. It was reported that due to the pandemic, he, as a citizen of Turkmenistan, was denied entry to Russia. There are no flights to Turkmenistan. Therefore, he should return to Turkey, from which he flew. Russian officials said they had already contacted the Turkmen consulate in Istanbul, and they would meet the oppositionist right at the airport to "decide what to do with you."

After Choliev categorically rejected this option, he was informed that in this case employees of the Turkmen consulate in Russia would be invited to the airport and "together with them we will resolve your issue."

According to reports, the Turkmen authorities have not officially put Choliyev on the international wanted list. The Russian authorities also have no complaints against him. However, he still does not have access to the migration service to apply for asylum. In November, Choliev already tried to fly to Russia, where he left a wife and a child, but the Russian airline then refused to let him on the flight.

The head of the «Civic Assistance» Committee, Svetlana Gannushkina, said this afternoon that Choliev's case will be dealt with by the organization's lawyer.

There can hardly be any doubt that in the event of a forced return to Turkmenistan, the opposition student will have serious problems because of his critical statements. Relatives have already given him advice: "Do not under any circumstances return home."

Information was also received that last night to his wife Myakhrijemal Khudainazarova, who continues her studies at the Karachay-Cherkess State University named after. U. D. Aliev, the commandant of the hostel came, began to clarify the legality of her stay in Russia and mentioned the possible arrival of the police.

Tajigul Begmedova, Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

Vitaliy Ponomaryov, Human Rights Center "Memorial"

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