A former minister of agriculture in the northern Russian region of Komi, Denis Sharonov, has requested political asylum in the US after receiving papers drafting him to serve in the Russian military, RTVI reported on Wednesday, citing Sharonov.
Journalists spotted Sharonov in a video on the YouTube channel We Are New Americans and identified him using facial recognition software.
Photo: Denis Sharonov / Facebook
In the video, Sharonov says that he studied in the US 28 years ago and has now returned to the country in the wake of mobilisation in Russia. Sharonov confirmed he had been a minister in Russia but said that he now works as a truck driver.
Between 2020 and January 2022, Sharonov served as the agriculture minister for the region of Komi in Russia’s far north, though he claims he was fired “during a prolonged conflict with the head of the region Vladimir Uyba”.
According to Sharonov, before the war, the system just ate up people who wanted to bring about change, but after the invasion of Ukraine, anyone with a dissenting opinion became a target. “As long as there’s a person [who needs isolating], they’ll find a criminal article to fit,” Sharonov said.
Sharonov said he began receiving signals that it was unsafe for him to remain in Russia, but that it was being issued with a draft notice last October that made him decide to leave for the US and apply for political asylum there.