The Ukrainian state-backed project, “I Want to Live”, says it plans to start exchanging Russian prisoners of war (POWs) for anti-war political prisoners jailed in Russia. The project, which provides Russian soldiers in Ukraine with an avenue to surrender safely, had until now solely focused on exchanges for Ukrainian POWs held by Russia.
Explaining how the initiative would work, Ukrainian military intelligence spokesperson Andriy Yusov said: “There are many people in Russia who have suffered for their anti-war stance, for supporting Ukraine, for standing up against [Russian president Vladimir] Putin's genocidal war and have received draconian real sentences.”
Some 21,000 individuals in Russia have faced reprisals for opposing the war, including more than 2000 who have been jailed in a country where it is illegal to publicly criticise the self-dubbed “special military operation” against Ukraine, according to Amnesty International.
“They were not afraid to express their civic position. The world should not forget about them and Ukraine will try to free them. They supported Ukraine and Ukraine should support them,” Yusov said.
In an August 17 post on its Telegram channel, the I Want To Live project explained that it aims to support them by initiating “the transfer of such individuals to Ukraine (through exchange or other means) with a possibility of securing political asylum in Ukraine and EU countries.”
Putin has been escalating his war on domestic dissent in the wake of the recent coup attempt by Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenary troops. While the coup attempt failed, it succeeded in exposing Putin's weaknesses and has triggered a crisis on the domestic front.
Among those to recently join the growing list of jailed dissidents is Boris Kagarlitsky, a high-profile opponent of the current war, who was detained on July 25 and is currently being held in a Russian pre-trial detention centre.
Russia's Federal Financial Monitoring Service added Kagarlitsky to its “extremists and terrorists” register on August 7, and he will be tried in late September, where he faces the possibility of up to 7 years’ jail if found guilty of the trumped-up charge of “justifying terrorism”.
In response, the Russian-based Kagarlitsky Solidarity Committee has launched an international petition demanding his release and expressing “solidarity with all political prisoners in Russia arrested for their antiwar views”.
The committee has also issued a call for an international day of action in solidarity with Kagarlitsky, to be held outside Russian consulates and embassies on September 16.
[To sign the international petition visit freeboris.info. For updates on the campaign, join the Freedom for Kagarlitsky Telegram channel at t.me/kagarlitskyfreedom.]