‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Mikhail Zhilin is a political prisoner

27 July 2023

Mikhail Zhilin, a military communications officer, did not want to fight in the war against Ukraine for reasons of conscience and tried to hide abroad, but Kazakhstan extradited him to Russia

Source: Political Prisoners. Memorial

The human rights project ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ in accordance with international standards, considers Mikhail Zhilin a political prisoner. Zhilin’s prosecution violates his right to freedom of conscience and is part of a campaign unleashed by the Russian authorities to force Russians to participate in the war against Ukraine and is intended to intimidate the Russian public.

We demand the immediate release of Mikhail Zhilin and an end to his criminal prosecution.

Who is Mikhail Zhilin and what are the charges against him?

Mikhail Zhilin, 36, lived in Novosibirsk and worked as a shift supervisor in the directorate of Special Communications and Information of the Russian Federal Guard Service in the Siberian Federal District. He was responsible for government communications and formally had access to state secrets, for which reason he was banned from traveling outside Russia.

On 27 September 2022, after mobilization began, Zhilin and his family left by car for the border with Kazakhstan. On the night of 27-28 September, Zhilin secretly crossed the border on foot, but the same day he was detained on the territory of Kazakhstan.

Mikhail Zhilin applied for political asylum because he was being forced to ‘go to the combat zone to kill other persons, citizens of Ukraine.

On 30 November 2022 the Kazakhstan authorities rejected Zhilin’s request for asylum, and on 29 December he was deported to Russia.

On 20 March 2023, a court in Barnaul sentenced Zhilin to six and a half years in a penal colony on charges of illegally crossing a border (Article 322, Part 1, of the Russian Criminal Code) and desertion during mobilization (Article 338, Part 3, of the Russian Criminal Code).

Why do we consider Zhilin a political prisoner?

We believe that criminal prosecution and imprisonment for refusing to participate in a war of aggression is in itself unlawful. Fleeing abroad was, in fact, the only way in which Zhilinn was able to refuse to participate in the war because the mobilization decree improperly restricts the rights of military personnel and makes their contracts of indefinite duration. The ban on resignation from military service contradicts both the provisions of the Russian Constitution and international law.

Zhilin has already been convicted of illegally crossing a border in Kazakhstan, which means he cannot be lawfully punished again for the same act in Russia.

Finally, Zhilin’s deportation to Russia violates both the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan and its international obligations.

A detailed description of the case and the Human Rights Project’s position are set out on our website.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the project, ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial,’ agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

How can you help?

You can write to Mikhail Zhilin at the following address:

In Russian: 656021, Алтайский край, г. Барнаул, пр. Канатный, 81, СИЗО-1, Жилину Михаилу Алексеевичу, 1986 г. р.

In English: Mikhail Alekseevich Zhilin (born 1986), Remand Prison No. 1,  81 Kanatny Prospekt., Barnaul, Altai region, 656021, Russia.

You can also use the Zonatelekom service to send an electronic letter.

You can donate to support all political prisoners via the PayPal (helppoliticalprisoners@gmail.com) or YooMoney accounts of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners. For more information about donating, see our website

Translated by Rights in Russia

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