Write to Russia: Mikhail Zhilin

On 20 March 2023, a court in Barnaul sentenced Mikhail 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). Mikhail Zhilin sought political asylum in Kazahstan because he did not want to take part in Russia’s war against Ukraine. Memorial has designated Mikhail Zhilin a political prisoner on grounds of freedom of conscience.

Mikhail Zhilin, 36, is from Novosibirsk and worked 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.

Mikhail Zhilin was sent to serve his sentence in Penal Colony No. 3 in Irkutsk region. In October, OVD-Info reported that Mikhail Zhilin had been transferred to a strict detention unit, although the reason for this was not known.

‘We decided long ago he would not carry out this criminal order.’

He was against the war from the very beginning, all the more so taking part in it, even indirectly, not to fight but to participate means to admit he agrees with the seizure of Donbas. We do not watch television, we do not listen to propaganda. Therefore, we knew about the real goals of the war. We decided long ago he would not carry out this criminal order. As soon as he saw himself on the list of those who were going to be sent to the territories of the LNR and DNR, it was clear he had to leave. This could have happened even before 24 September, it just happened that he was scheduled for a business trip right after the announced “partial mobilisation”.

Ekaterina Zhilina, Mikhail’s wife, in an interview with the website ‘Sibir.Realii’, as quoted by Political Prisoners. Memorial

Write to Mikhail Zhilin

To write to Mikhail to express your support for him, please send your letter as an email to us at: letters-to-prisoners@protonmail.com. We shall translate the letter into Russian for you and either, depending on your request, mail the translated letter on your behalf to Mikhail or return the letter to you for posting in an envelope with an address written in Russian. If we send the letter on your behalf, we ask that you compensate us for the cost of postage from the UK (currently £2.20 – $2.73; €2.52). To learn more about our letter writing project, click here: Write to Russia.

Mikhail Zhilin is being held Penal Colony No. 3 in Irkutsk region. His address in Russian is:

664019, Иркутская область, г. Иркутск, ул. Писарева, д. 13, ФКУ ИК-3 ГУФСИН России по Иркутской области, Жилину Михаилу Алексеевичу, 1986 г. р.

The human rights project, Political Prisoners. Memorial has designated Mikhail Zhilin as a political prisoner. For more information, see ‘Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Mikhail Zhilin is a political prisoner. and Conditions of Detention Toughened for Ex-Officer Mikhail Zhilin [the latter report in Russian].

See also reporting by: Newsweek, Novaya gazeta, Reuters, RFE/RL, The Moscow Times, The New York Times.

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