A Russian couple who opposed Putin and the Ukraine war sought asylum in the US. They were detained for six months.
- A Russian couple sought asylum in the US but were detained for six months, The New York Times reported.
- The couple, who were both vocal critics of Putin and his invasion of Ukraine, fled Russia in April.
A Russian couple who opposed President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine was detained for six months after seeking asylum in the US, The New York Times reported on Monday.
Mariia Shemiatina and Boris Shevchuk, both practicing physicians, had been vocal critics of Putin since at least 2018 and feared they would either be conscripted to serve as medics on the front lines or imprisoned, after posting anti-war messages on social media.
Unable to get visas to travel to Europe, they fled to Tijuana, Mexico, in mid-April, before requesting asylum at a US port of entry.
But the couple was detained, separated, and flown to two remote immigration detention centers in Louisiana, where they were kept for six months before being reunited, according to the Times.
The Times reported that a growing number of Russian asylum claims are being processed at the US southern border, following the start of the invasion of Ukraine, but many asylum seekers are being put into immigration detention centers that resemble prisons for months on end.
In the 2022 fiscal year, 21,763 Russians sought refuge in the US, compared to just 467 in 2020.
Shemiatina told The Times that she shared a dorm with two dozen Russians at the South Louisiana ICE Processing Center in the town of Basile.
Her husband was held in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Pine Prairie, 30 miles away.
After a fellow detainee threatened violence against him and others, Shevchuk demanded they be moved, he told The Times. But during the transfer a guard handcuffed him and knocked him to the ground, causing a head injury, Shevchuk told The Times.
"I came to realize that I had left Russia for a place that was just like Russia," Shevchuk said.
The couple were reunited in October, and have subsequently been staying with a volunteer working for Freedom for Immigrants, an organization that aids detained immigrants, the Times said. It is unclear what their immigration status is.
A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
It is unclear how many Russian asylum seekers are being detained in the US, but Svetlana Kaff, an immigration lawyer, told the Times that she has recently been flooded with requests for help.
"Proportionately, compared to people from other countries, there are more Russians being sent to detention," she said.
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