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Thousands Of Russians Seek Asylum In EU, Ukraine

Residents of Moscow's Rechnik neighborhood applied for asylum after the government razed their homes.
MOSCOW -- More than 5,000 Russian citizens sought political asylum in the European Union in the third quarter of 2009, more than from any other country, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

According to European Statistics Agency data, the largest single category of asylum-seekers are Chechens and residents of other North Caucasus republics.

But political and human rights activists and journalists are also seeking asylum in Europe.

While several high-profile Russian businessmen and politicians have been granted asylum in the EU -- most notably in the United Kingdom -- an increasing number of Russians are seeking asylum in Ukraine.

Olga Kudrina, who heads the Union of Political Emigrants, told RFE/RL that she joined the Russian National Bolshevik Party in 2003 and was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for hanging a banner from a hotel near Red Square in 2005 calling for then-President Vladimir Putin to resign.

She fled Russia in 2006 and was granted refugee status in Ukraine two years later.

Kudrina says it's hard to predict whether Viktor Yanukovych's election as president of Ukraine will lead to a change in the country's immigration policies, possibly making it harder for Russians to receive asylum.