US quietly sends some Russians fleeing military draft back to Russia

The United States has quietly resumed deporting Russians denied asylum back to their motherland, reported The Guardian.

At least one Russian asylum seeker was sent back over the weekend, the British newspaper reported on Saturday, just over a year after the Biden administration suspended deportation flights to Russia, Ukraine and seven other European countries, citing the “ongoing humanitarian crisis” in Ukraine.

Russian men have fled their homeland to countries as varied as South Korea, Thailand and Germany to dodge the military draft announced in September 2022.

Kremlin officials reportedly estimated 700,000 men left the country in under two weeks. 

Nearly 22,000 Russians have tried entering the US since Russia implemented the draft, CNN reported in February, including two who braved sea winds for five days to reach Alaska in a dinghy.

Texas lawyer Jennifer Scarborough, who represents several Russians facing deportation, told the Guardian that one client was sent home. She added that more are under a threat of being returned to Russia, which launched a “special military operation” in neighbouring Ukraine on Feb 24, 2022. 

Her clients appear to have experienced inconsistent interpretations over whether fear of conscription constitutes a “credible fear” that would lead to asylum approval by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Two remain in “legal limbo” after ICE officers ruled through an interview that they did not meet the criteria, with an immigration judge also dismissing their appeal. Another, however, was granted more than one interview with officials who determined his fear of being drafted was a valid asylum claim.

In their interviews, the onus is on asylum seekers to convince officials how ​​there is “significant possibility” of persecution or torture if they return to their motherland.

Russia has suffered heavy casualties during its drawn-out conflict with Ukraine. Including those who have been killed, wounded and missing, The Economist estimated numbers have ballooned to more than 200,000 during the first year of its invasion.

While Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the goal of calling up 300,000 reservists had been met, men returned to Russia still face the prospect of being sent to the front line as the military continues to lose hundreds each day.

Ms Scarborough said: “I just have questions about when it restarted this and why. In March 2022, the US said it was stopping deportations to Russia because of the political situation – so I don’t understand why it restarted it and it did it so quietly.”

Russian media reported that men who received draft notices but refused to sign up risk a 10-year prison sentence.

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