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Russian blogger stuck at Georgian border after fleeing ‘political’ terrorism charges

A Russian blogger and activist has been stranded in the Russia-Georgia border area for nearly a week after authorities in Tbilisi denied her entry into the country.

Russian authorities accuse Insa Lander of recruiting others for a terrorist organization, a claim she rejects as politically motivated. She fled house arrest and attempted to cross into Georgia and seek political asylum on June 12 and again on June 13, but was turned back at the Georgian border both times.

Lander, who now stays in a duty-free shop between the two countries’ border checkpoints, told the Moscow Times that she does not have regular access to food and water and that human rights defenders were not allowed to visit him.

“One day [Georgian border guards] assure me that they really want to help, but the very next day they say that I am a ‘problem’ and that I have to go back to Russia because nothing threatens me there,” Lander said in an interview.

“Some border guards brought me coffee or tea, others chased me out of the duty-free shop when it was raining. Duty-free workers are prohibited from helping me – they cannot give me water or provide Wi-Fi,” she added.

“Anyway, I’m not afraid of the local border guards and I don’t expect anything bad from them; all the danger comes from the Russian border.

The Georgian Interior Ministry said Lander was refused entry because she allegedly gave “manifestly false and contradictory information” about the purpose of her visit.

Georgian law also stipulates that those prosecuted for terrorism in other countries may be refused entry.

“There are more than 1,000 Russian activists and journalists in Georgia. In this case, Georgia is probably afraid of the false accusations of terrorism brought against Insa. We have applied to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Interior and Georgian humanitarian organizations, but so far we have had no results,” said Yegor Kuroptev, director of the Free Russia in the Caucasus Foundation. of the South, to the Moscow Times.

Kuroptev said he was unable to visit Lander in the Neutral Zone, but managed to smuggle food to him.

He also said that the Free Russia Foundation – which supports the Russian diaspora in Georgia – is currently in talks with a number of European countries to grant political asylum to Lander.

Lithuanian Ambassador to Georgia Andrius Kalindra said on Thursday that Vilnius was ready to provide Lander with a visa if she is allowed to enter Georgia.

Lander, a longtime resident of Moscow, was arrested on charges of terrorism in the Kabardino-Balkaria republic in the North Caucasus in December 2021 and placed under house arrest.

She says the case is an attempt to prevent her from investigating allegations of corruption at a charity headed by a senior Kabardino-Balkaria official.

His lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov said the case was based on his correspondence on the VKontakte social network from 2014.

Russia’s oldest human rights monitoring body, Memorial, has called The lawsuits against Lander are illegal and politically motivated.

A number of Russian opposition figures have already been denied entry to Georgia, including journalists Mikhail Fishman and Ilya Azar and politicians Lyubov Sobol and Dmitry Gudkov.