Vladivostok Lawmaker Who Fled Russia Following Invasion Receives U.S. Asylum

A lawmaker from Vladivostok who fled Russia after it invaded Ukraine has received asylum in the United States.

Viktor Kamenshchikov, who represented the Communist Party in the city’s legislature, said in a social media post on October 22 that his request for political asylum has been approved and he has been released from detention.

“I am free, I have received asylum, and now I can be a full member of American society. Was it a long process? Yes, but I don't regret it at all,” he said in a Telegram post.

Kamenshchikov was detained by U.S. border officials in May as he tried to cross into the country from Mexico. Thousands of Russians have made the same trek since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Kamenshchikov immediately came out against the invasion and stopped attending parliament. He soon filed an application to leave the Communist Party, which backed the unprovoked invasion.

Anatoly Dolgachyov, the first secretary of Primorsk branch of the Communist Party and the head of the party’s faction in the Primorsk regional parliament, said Kamenshchikov had “tarnished the honor” and “discredited” the party."

He called Kamenshchikov a "traitor."

In an interview in March with RFE/RL’s Siberian.Realities, Kamenshchikov criticized those who were fleeing Russia without denouncing the war.

“To flee and not express your opinion means to flee with the status of an occupier,” he said. “If a person has not expressed his opinion today and if a person has not said today that he is against the invasion, it means that he is in favor."

Many Russian men who supported the war or did not oppose it fled the country after President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial” mobilization. Such individuals may struggle to receive asylum in the West, experts have said.

Kamenshchikov said he is currently living in Miami but did not state his future plans.