- By Johanna Salinas
Russian asylum seekers on Guam protest Navalny's imprisonment
Russian asylum seekers on Guam held a rally in front of the Guam Congress building in Hagatna protesting the imprisonment of Russia's opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
“We’re not here because it’s Mother’s Day. We’re here because this building is a symbol of justice and the law,” said Tatiana, who asked to withhold her surname due to her ongoing asylum application. “We’re asking for justice. We believe law in the U.S. is powerful; it gives justice to everybody. We demand the same for Russia. Justice isn’t a privilege—it's a right. Law should matter to everyone. Law can’t be controlled by just one dictator.”
Asylum seeker Fedor Simanov explained why they held their protest in front of the Guam legislature. "We see this legislature as a symbol of democracy," he said.
“This is like Russia where local legislatures don’t have authority, because of Putin's rule. It’s too similar to fascism. In Guam, this is a branch of authority, not like Russia. We’re simply stuck here. We can’t go to United Nations to show our protest to the Russian embassy."
Simanov has been on Guam since 2019, prior to the Department of Homeland Security's termination of the parole program for Russian travelers.
"I’ve been very alone. My message for the people of Guam is to please stay in solidarity with us. We appreciate all Guam is doing. We’re still seeking asylum—we're stuck in that process," he said.
Nalvany, the 44-year-old Russian opposition politician, was arrested in January and sentenced to jail for parole violations he called trumped up. Navalny has been criticized for past nationalist statements against illegal immigration and for attending an annual nationalist march several years ago.
Tatiana said she is aware that local politicians "cannot really affect the situation in Russia" and that Guam has many problems of its own.
"But this problem is very important to us. I’ve been persecuted. I’m here to support Alexei Navalny today. This is the only place we can protest. We can’t go to Russia to protest. Whatever we can do, we’ll do it. We can protest here. We can be active in our political life on Guam.”
Simanov, who claims to be a political refugee, is seeking asylum in U.S. “We’re asking permission to go to the states because Guam is small and doesn’t have much authority. In the states, the State Department works to protect people’s political ideals and gives safety from persecution. We appreciate the help of the Chamoru people and the U.S.”
May 9 is a holiday in Russia. For Victory Day, the Russian military parades the city streets with guns and tanks.
Although Tatiana did not grow up celebrating Mother’s Day, the holiday reminds her of the mother she left back in Russia. She said, “Russians don’t celebrate Mother’s Day, but we celebrate Women’s Day on March 8. Being here, I'm committed to local holidays. Of course, I called my mom and greeted her with this Mother’s Day.”
Simanov said hopes to be reunited with his mother someday. “I’ve been stuck here and it’s hard for my mother since I'm an only child,” he said. “It’s painful because she’s still in Russia and it’s scary that the government can turn her into a hostage. I’m afraid that they’ll harm her. It’s been almost two years since I've kissed my mother. I pray the US can provide help to see our relatives again.”