“I would volunteer to fight if someone attacks us and puts my loved ones in danger,” Vladimir Maraktayev told the Korea Times newspaper. For this reason, he already completed compulsory military service in Russia in 2019. He sees nothing wrong in defending his country.

“But it’s a very different story when my own country is the aggressor. I will never take up arms to go to Ukraine and kill innocent people,” said the young Russian.

For this reason, on the evening of September 24, 2022, he set out with other young men from the neighborhood.

They had all received marching orders as part of the Russian partial mobilization. They crossed the border into Mongolia and continued to the capital, Ulaanbaatar.

From there Maraktayev flew to Manila in the Philippines. And after a short stay, finally on to Seoul.

However, he has not been able to leave the airport there since then. He shares his fate with four other Russian men who have also fled to Korea because of the partial mobilization.

In his eyes, Maraktayev says that the fact that politicians are held accountable if they are corrupt speaks for the country. That is unimaginable in Russia.

The country’s asylum policy is less favorable. Because Korea rejects the lion’s share of asylum applications. In 2021, for example, the admission rate for refugees was 1.3 percent. Bad for the five Russians: The Justice Department believes that avoiding military service is not a valid reason to review the asylum application.

But under no circumstances do the men want to go back to Russia. They have therefore been living in the waiting room of Seoul Incheon Airport’s departure lounge for months, subsisting on foods provided by the Ministry of Justice: a muffin and a pack of juice for breakfast and dinner, and chicken rice for lunch or dinner. They don’t have much money left because they spent most of it on their escape.

With the help of lawyers from the organization Advocates for Public Interest Law, the five men have filed a complaint against the Ministry of Justice in the Incheon Administrative Court. You asked it to overturn its non-referral decision.

“These men are persecuted in their home country because of their perceived political opinions, which qualifies them for asylum status under international standards. The ministry should be aware of this,” said her lawyer, Lee Jong-chan.

Persecution based on “perceived political opinion” means that people can become the target of political persecution not only because of their actual opinions, but also because of opinions that their persecutors impute to them. That would probably be the case in Russia for conscientious objectors. According to Lee, the court ruling is expected to come later this month.

If the court sides with the five men, they will be issued G-1 visas. They guarantee them temporary residency in Korea until they go through an official screening process. If the court decides against them, in the worst case they face deportation to their home country.

And there they face severe penalties. At least one of the men has also been imprisoned for his criticism of the government, according to the Korean Times.

This article was written by Laura Frommberg

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The original of this article “Russians flee military service and have been stuck at the airport for months” comes from aeroTelegraph.