A Russian opposition activist has sought refuge in the United States out of fear for his family's safety after he took part in unsanctioned rallies in January to support jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.
Anton Deinega, who is from Russia's Black Sea port city of Novorossiisk, told RFE/RL on September 13 that he and his family arrived in the United States in early September. He said he has asked for political asylum and the U.S. authorities are checking if he faced threats or persecution in Russia.
Deinega said he was arrested at a pro-Navalny rally in January and severely beaten by police. After he documented the injuries he inflicted, Deinega claimed, a police unit dealing with extremism cases summoned him for questioning and warned him of possible consequences of extremist activities.
Deinega also alleged that unknown persons wrote "Go Away, Scumbags!" on the gate to his home.
According to Deinega, police did not launch a probe into the vandalism although he officially filed a complaint.
"In July, social workers started visiting our kindergarten, asking the teacher of our older daughter about her parents and the conditions in which she lives and so on. After that we stopped sending our children to kindergarten. On August 19, the FSB [Federal Security Service] summoned me and warned that they have enough material to launch a probe against me on any charge they want. I decided not to risk [my life] and in early September I emigrated," Deinega said.
In recent months, several opposition activists, rights defenders, and independent journalists have left Russia, claiming pressure or threats ahead of the country's State Duma and local elections on September 17-19.