Putin critic fights to remain in Canada, fears for safety if sent back to Russia
'The Canadian government seems to want to send us to the waiting arms of the Russian secret police'
A vocal opponent of the Russian government who fears for her life says Canada is about to deliver her into the hands of President Vladimir Putin's secret police.
Russian scientist Elena Musikhina and her supporters are pleading with the Trudeau government to let her stay in Canada on compassionate grounds — with time rapidly running out.
Musikhina believes her family fell into disfavour with Russian authorities for condemning Moscow's military incursions in Ukraine and for saying Russia illegally annexed Crimea.
In addition, Musikhina says her research work uncovered information about serious environmental hazards and pollution from military activity around the large freshwater Lake Baikal in Siberia.
Her supporters say a half-dozen other researchers and officials who were aware of the data died in mysterious and violent circumstances. Musikhina's pet dog was shot and she herself had warning shots fired over her head. The Russian FSB, an internal security service descended from the Soviet-era KGB, began asking questions.
Musikhina and her husband Mikhail fled in 2015 to join their daughter, a permanent resident of Canada, in Gatineau, Que. The couple unsuccessfully applied for refugee protection and subsequent appeals have failed.
The status of their application to the Immigration Department for consideration on humanitarian and compassionate grounds is uncertain. Regardless, the Canada Border Services Agency has indicated it will inform the couple next Tuesday of a deportation date.
"Unfortunately, the Canadian government seems to want to send us to the waiting arms of the Russian secret police," Musikhina told a news conference Tuesday, flanked by supporters and members of her family.
A genuine threat
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is calling on Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen to halt the removals of Musikhina and her husband.
"This is an emergency. It's a matter of life and death," May said.
"It's one of the most desperate cases I've ever seen of people on the verge of being deported. There can be no doubt as to the danger posed to dissidents within Russia — that's well-known."
Human-rights activist and former Alberta MP David Kilgour, who is also championing Musikhina's case, said she faces genuine danger if returned to Russia, given the knowledge she has gleaned through her research.