Statement of Support from Catherine Owen, PhD Candidate, University of Exeter
I have known Irina Putilova for several years. We lived together in St Petersburg. Irina worked hard in Russia for freedom of artistic and political expression; her energy, creativity and dedication were a real inspiration to me. However, during this time, I witnessed first-hand how she was followed and sent death threats by members of the Centre Against Extremism. I was also aware of how neo-nazi thugs hunted Irina and her friends on the streets. I saw how much this was frightening her, how she was forced into an underground existence and consequently became very concerned for her safety.
It is important to view her case in the context of the increasing persecution of political dissenters in Russia. There are currently hundreds of political prisoners in the country including Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Pussy Riot, and the 6th May protesters; indeed, just two days ago, President Putin confirmed that such prisoners will not be released in Russia’s up-coming amnesty. If Ira is returned to Russia there is no doubt that she will be added to this list. The international community should support those brave individuals fighting for justice and freedom in repressive regimes such as Russia’s. I therefore urge the Home Office to grant Irina political asylum.