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Saturday 2 October 2021

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Valentina Chupik has left Moscow's Sheremetyovo airport on a flight to Armenia.

A noted migrant rights defender who was being held at a Moscow airport and faced deportation to Uzbekistan says she has left Russia on a flight to Armenia.

In a brief interview before her flight departed on October 2 from Sheremetyevo airport, Valentina Chupik told RFE/RL that she was unsure of the legal details of her case, but that she unexpectedly received an Uzbek passport this morning, and then got a PCR test for COVID so she could board a flight.

"After that, I was given the opportunity to turn on the phone a little. Then they put me on plane," she said.

"I'm on a plane. I have to turn off the phone, now we're taking off," she said.

It wasn't immediately clear if Armenia was Chupik's final destination, or whether she would be flying on further.

An Uzbek citizen and rights activist, Chupik fled Uzbekistan in 2006 after authorities there tried to take control of her human rights organization.

She has lived in Moscow since then, running a nongovernmental organization called Sunrise of the World that provides legal defense and assistance to migrant workers from Central Asia.

On September 25, she was detained at Sheremetyevo after returning to Russia from Armenia.

According to her, officers of Russia's Federal Security Service informed her that she has been deprived of her refugee status since September 17 and banned from entering Russia for 30 years.

The move was made, the officers told her, because she presented either false information or forged documents to Russian authorities when she applied for refugee status in 2006.

Chupik, who called the assertion "absolute nonsense," said that she might be jailed, tortured, or even killed while in custody if she is deported back to Uzbekistan.

Earlier, one of Chupik's aides told RFE/RL that they had filed asylum requests with Ukrainian diplomats in Moscow and Kyiv.

Chupik's plight has drawn the attention of rights activists in Russia, as well as the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, which asked the European Court of Human Rights to intervene on her behalf.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service
Kazakh civil activist Almat Zhumagulov

Kazakh civil activist Almat Zhumagulov has been released from a penal colony after completing almost four years of an eight-year prison sentence on terrorism charges that human rights watchdogs say were politically motivated.

Zhumagulov's October 1 release from the Zarechny penal colony in the Almaty region came after a Kazakh court approved his request to serve the rest of his prison term in a regime of "restricted freedom" -- a parole-like sentence -- rather than in a penitentiary.

He was detained in November 2017 and was sentenced in December 2018 by a court in Almaty on charges of "propagating terrorism" and "inciting national hatred.”

Human rights activists consider Zhumagulov a political prisoner and say that his conviction signaled the beginning of a wave of repression against alleged members of "extremist" groups, including the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement, of which Zhumagulov is a member.

DVK is led by Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank and outspoken critic of the Kazakh government. Kazakh authorities labeled DVK extremist and banned the group in March 2018.

The European Parliament has urged the Kazakh authorities to release Zhumagulov from prison.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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