April 18. 2024. 1:48

The Daily

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Russian detained in Albania on espionage charges seeks political asylum

Russian citizen Svetlana Timofeeva, arrested in Albania on espionage charges and set to be extradited to Russia, has applied for political asylum under claims Moscow will persecute her for her views on the war in Ukraine.

Timofeeva was caught, along with two other individuals, entering closed military facilities dating from the communist era when Albania had a close allegiance with the Soviet Union. She was charged with espionage while also being wanted in Russia for similar charges, all of which she denies.

“The return of this citizen to Russia would be contrary to the prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment,” the asylum request filed by her lawyers states.

“There is reason to believe that Svetlana Timofeeva will be subjected to persecution or discrimination,” it continues.

They use examples of her social media posts made in the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a reason why she would face persecution if she returned.

“This is not a special liberation operation, this is one man’s war against our brothers and a crime against our people,” she wrote, adding that those who supported the war should leave her page. “It is always harder to believe what is happening: The war cannot be called a war, the dead are not told, the deaths are hidden.”

Timofeeva told the court at the start of February that she had divorced her husband and left Russia because of her views on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She said these views would leave her open to political persecution, and she expressed a wish to remain in Albania.

Shortly after, the Justice Ministry gave the green light for extradition processes to start with the request being examined by the court.

“The Ministry of Justice has administered the request for extradition of the aforementioned subject, in which the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation, in the capacity of the central authority, has given guarantees that the extradition request is not aimed at persecuting the person for political reasons, due to race, religion, nationality or political views etc.”, the Ministry of Justice told BIRN at the time.

Timofeeva has published two books and amassed a significant social media following as she photographed ex-Soviet sites worldwide. She was arrested in Albania after entering a rundown weapons factory south of Tirana where AK-47s were once manufactured.

Police found cameras, drones, phones, maps, and cash during the investigation. The authorities became even more suspicious when one of Timofeeva’s associates sprayed pepper spray at two guards once they were discovered.

The three suspects remain in custody and deny all charges against them.