Staunton, May 4 – As a result of FSB persecution, Pavel Sulyandziga, one of the founders of the Association of the Indigenous Numerically Small Peoples of Russia and vice president of the UN working group on business and human rights, has been forced to request political asylum in the United States.
Because Sulyandziga was a Yabloko candidate for the Russian Duma in 2016, the fullest account of his plight is on the Yabloko party website (yabloko.ru/publikatsii/2017/05/02). So far, most other articles about his fate have simply drawn from that source.
An Udeg mathematics teacher, Sulyandiga became politically active in Gorbachev’s time and in 1987 was elected to the Soviet of Peoples Deputies and then in 1991 headed the National Council of Peoples Deputies in Krasny Yar. In the 1990s, he served as an advisor to the Primorsky kray governor on issues of the indigenous peoples of the North.
In 2004, the activist formed the Batani Foundation to support and defend indigenous peoples against threats from the consequences of outside exploitation of oil, gas and other raw materials on the territory of their homelands. In 2016, Moscow named the foundation “a foreign agent,” but it did not give Sulyandiga any warning about this. He learned it from the media.
Even before that Moscow action, regional officials had attacked the foundation, accusing it of “political provocations” and a desire to increase tensions between the indigenous peoples and Russians. During the 2016 elections, the media accused Sulyandiga of corruption and other crimes but provided no evidence for these charges.
After the election, the authorities arrested his brother and sought to force him to testify against his brother, an indication, Sulyandiga says, that Moscow is planning a new political trial against him. The powers that be have also interviewed others and they’ve sent Sulyandiga’s son to a hot spot in the North Caucasus.
“Fearing for his family,” Yabloko says, “Pavel Sulyandziga decided to request political asylum in the US. He publicly declared this last week. Now, he and his family are in the US and awaiting the decision of the authorities there on providing him and his family with political asylum.”
The ethnic activist says that he intends to continue to fulfill his obligations as a member of the UN working group on business and human rights, and the party website expresses the hope that he will be allowed to do so.