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Russian Says Defected To Georgia For Moral, Political Reasons

Vitaliy Khripun
Vitaliy Khripun
TBILISI -- A Russian soldier who asked for political asylum in Georgia says his decision to leave the Russian Army was morally and politically motivated, RFE/RL's Echo of the Caucasus reports.

Vitaly Khripun, 25, left his military unit in South Ossetia and asked for asylum on December 21 at a Georgian police station near the village of Perevi, which has been occupied by Russian military units since last year's five-day military conflict between Russia and Georgia.

Khripun told RFE/RL that he does not consider himself a deserter. He said his decision to defect was caused by the reality of the "humiliation of the Georgian population in South Ossetia."

Khripun said anyone "who considers himself a human being could not stand the things I witnessed."

He added that he has not contacted his relatives in Russia. Red Cross officials have visited him and promised to help him contact his family.

Khripun said the Russian Federal Security Service's (FSB) information alleging that his defection to Georgia was a staged action by the Georgian secret service is untrue, as he made the decision himself and approached Georgian border guards of his own accord.

He is the third Russian soldier to ask for political asylum in Georgia this year.

At least one Georgian soldier has asked the Russian authorities for asylum.

Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence in August 2008.

Russia recognized their independence and Russian military units have been guarding the two self-proclaimed republics' borders with Georgia since then.