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A toughening of already draconian Kremlin policy on everything from gay rights to political activism are driving a record-high number of Russians to seek asylum in Europe and the United States, according to multiple Russia experts.
Responding to a recent RFE investigation of data compiled by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Russian political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin attributed the 40 percent uptick in Russian asylum seekers since 2017—the highest since earliest years of the post-Soviet era—to a dramatic tightening of restrictions on everything from social media dialogue to personal lifestyle choices.
He told VOA, "screws are tightening everywhere, citizens are already imprisoned for reposting on social networks."
Although last year's 2,664 new Russian asylum applications in the United States represent a 268-percent increase since 2012, EU immigration data show Germany alone saw 4,885 first time applicants, roughly a third of the 12,600 Russians who sought a toe-hold on the European continent.
While neither USCIS nor EU statistics disclose specific reasons that compel individual applicants to seek asylum, successful candidates must provide proof of an immediate threat to their well-being as a result of discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation or affiliation with particular social or political organizations.