Russian journalist Sergey Kuznecov has applied for political asylum in Israel, saying that should he return to his hometown of Yekaterinburg, his life will be in danger.
Kuznecov, who has been staying in Israel for nearly a month, told Ynet Sunday that his work has placed him on the authorities' "radar" and that he has concrete reason to fear of his life.
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According to the Russian journalist, Jerusalem has yet to respond to his request for asylum. He arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport on Sunday and said that he intends on staying there "until a solution is found for me."
Kuznecov is a journalist with Svoboda Radio in Yekaterinburg, which is one of central Russia's major cities. He told Ynet that he had to flee Russia after a series of reports on corruption in Yekaterinburg's legal system made him a target for threats.
He also said that he has been haunted Russian authorities for several years now, after the International Crimes Court (ICC) in The Hague ruled that authorities were, if fact, infringing on his freedom of speech and freedom of association.
Clear and present danger
"These exposés, alongside my political activity, has drawn the attention of senior officials who have ganged up on me," Kuznecov said.
"I was ready for legal action, or even for the possibility they would try to have me committed to a mental institution, but they chose a much worse course of action."
Kuznecov claims that the powers that be at Yekaterinburg sent junior mobsters "to stage a common crime and get rid of me."
Attorney Avi Aptekman, who is representing Kuznecov in Israel, said that his client was the target of multiple threats and had suffered several attacks by both Yekaterinburg police officers and local mobsters.
"You have to understand that the Russian courts don't work like the Israeli ones," Aptekman told Ynet. "It's a corrupt system where police officers tell judges what to do. He has no defense there."
Many Russian journalists die under mysterious circumstances, he added, and their killers are never brought to justice.
Kuznecov arrived in Israel, via Turkey, in late June as a tourist. While in Turkey he tried to fly to the UK, but could not get the proper visa.
"As soon as I arrived in Israel I contacts lawyers and applied for political asylum… but so far we have had no response."
A process of reviewing a political asylum request may take several months, during which Kuznecov will have to prove that his life is, indeed, in grave danger. Both he and his attorney fear he may not be able to wait that long.
"I have no means of support and cannot find work in Israel at this time, since that would be illegal and I have no intention of violating Israeli law... I can only stay with friends for so long. It's not a solution. I'm at a dead end."
Kuznecov said he tried to appeal to the British Embassy for assistance, but was told that it would be a lengthy process. He then tried to purchase a ticket to London, but when he informed the airline he was seeking political asylum, he was refused a seat on the flight.
"I can only assume their refusal was illegal, otherwise they would have referred me to the relevant article in the law," he said.
Kuznecov told Ynet he knows that staying at Ben Gurion airport is problematic, "But what am I supposed to do? I may have to start a hunger strike to get attention, but that's the last resort. I think it would be in Israel's best interest to solve the situation by cutting through the bureaucratic process."
"It is strange that an individual seeking asylum in Israel tries to leave the country mere days after the request."
Polina Garaev contributed to this report
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