Russia fast-tracks local man's deportation
As of today, local man and Soviet defector Gennady Denisenko is closer than ever to being deported back to his native Russia. The Russian government has processed Denisenko's travel documents with what his attorney calls "unusual speed." Now there's nothing keeping the Department of Homeland Security from deporting Denisenko from the country he's called home since 1991.
"The Russian Embassy told me on Friday it would take a few months," says attorney Mark Urbanski, "but then I got a call this morning from the detention facility where he is in Texas saying they expected to receive his travel documents from the Russian government tomorrow and that they expect to put him on a plane in about two weeks."
The news has hit Denisenko's wife Melinda particularly hard.
"I've cried so much today I don't think I have any water left in me," she says. "I am struck to the core with fear."
As the Hook reports in this week's cover story, Denisenko came to America 17 years ago, having already served five years in a Siberian prison camp after writing several promotional materials calling for democracy and the overthrow of communism in the Soviet Union. Since defecting, Denisenko has applied repeatedly for legal status beyond a temporary work visa, both as a candidate for political asylum and as the legally wedded spouse of Melinda, a U.S. citizen. The UVA Russian-doctoral candidate and UVA hospital interpreter has been denied political asylum multiple times, and has yet to get acknowledgment of his nearly seven-year marriage from Citizenship and Immigration Services.
So why has the Russian government suddenly expedited a case which only days ago was to take months to complete? Nobody at the Russian Embassy was available for comment at the time of this post, but Urbanski has suspicions.
"It could be that they have a real interest in getting him back to Russia, as Gennady has always claimed," says Urbanski. "The more likely explanation is that they have gotten an indication of the press this is getting and this is becoming a hot potato because it highlights the problems that Russia is having with human rights issues."
There does, however, appear to be a glimmer of hope for Denisenko. The chief counsel for the CIS in Florida (where Denisenko was living until 2001) informed Urbanski today that the federal government is preparing to decide whether to re-open Denisenko's case for political asylum, possibly as early as Monday. Urbanski is cautiously optimistic at the government's newfound interest in the case.
"Giving it immediate attention is not something they're required to do," he says, "but, ultimately, the indicator will be whether they join our motion to re-open the case."
At this hour, Melinda is asking people wanting to help her husband to do they only thing that she can do.
"Pray," she says. "Even if you're not praying people, pray. We've worked too long and too hard."