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Activist Sasha Pechenka denied international protection in Poland despite facing death threats in native Tajikistan

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Polish authorities denied international protection to Saidanvar Sulaimonov, a Russian activist of Tajik origin, also known online as Sasha Pechenka <which means “Cookie” in Russian>.

The activist works in Poland as a journalist and volunteers on the Ukrainian border, providing aid to refugees. During his time in Russia, he worked at the election headquarters of Andrei Pivovarov, who is currently imprisoned for involvement in an undesirable organization. Additionally, Sulaimonov was a healthcare worker at a COVID hospital in Moscow, but was terminated after showing support for Alexei Navalny by posting a photo with a flashlight.

While working with Pivovarov, Sulaimonov caught the attention of authorities, and without any clear reason, the FSB prohibited him from entering Russia for the next 40 years. Upon arriving at the airport, he was searched at gunpoint, according to Sota. Commenting on this incident, Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov remarked on his show, “Leave our country, you scum. You have no homeland.”

As Pechenka told The Insider, the Polish authorities did not see any facts in his biography that would indicate any danger for him to return to his native country.

“Despite The Insider's publication about the persecution of Tajik oppositionists, my request for asylum was denied due to a lack of formal evidence of persecution in Tajikistan. However, the special services of Russia and Tajikistan are collaborating, and I fear being imprisoned if I return to Tajikistan. The special services even went to my parents' house to locate me, and military registration and enlistment officials also visited. They did not provide any documentation indicating that I was involved in a criminal case; instead, they simply questioned my neighbors about my whereabouts and activities. In Tajikistan, I may face persecution not only from authorities but also from local pro-religious activists. As one of the admins of the Instagram project, I was deanonymized, and we received numerous threats, including threats to kill, stab, and decapitate me.
Returning to Tajikistan also poses a significant danger to me due to my active support of LGBTQ+ and feminism, which has prompted 3-5 individuals to send me regular threats. I have also taken a firm anti-war stance regarding Tajikistan's conflict in Kyrgyzstan and have openly expressed my opinions, leading to further threats. Although there has been no criminal or administrative prosecution against me, this lack of action does not provide any real assurance of my safety. Several individuals from Moscow, Kyiv, and even Germany have been deported to Tajikistan and promptly faced criminal charges, resulting in 20-30 years of imprisonment.”

According to The Insider's previous reporting, Russia has been engaged in the unlawful kidnapping and extradition of Tajiks to Rahmon's regime, often without court decisions, and even going so far as to extradite Russian citizens. The Russian authorities have even lured individuals, such as Tajik opposition activists hiding in Europe, into Russian territory and then kidnapped them to hand over to Tajikistan. Sharofiddin Gadoev, who was abducted, managed to return to Europe and recounted his encounter with Nikolai Patrushev, whom he claimed played a key role in luring Tajik opposition activists out of hiding. The Insider and Bellingcat have interviewed numerous individuals involved in these events, revealing how Tajik opposition leaders were tricked into “meeting with Putin,” how activists were transported to Tajikistan in coffins disguised as corpses, and how Tajik secret services in Europe gather compromising material on opposition leaders.

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