Fate Of Russian Defector With INS -- Persecution, Abuse Feared In Homeland
It was a big risk - a gamble that would seal his fate.
But as he turned his back on the Russian ship that would have taken him home, Alexey Sviridov, 18, knew what he was doing.
Sviridov, a Russian sailor who was reported missing from the Marshal Krylov when it left Seattle Nov. 30 after a goodwill tour, said through a translator yesterday that he wanted to stay in the United States because he feared his abusive stepfather and ethnic violence in his own country.
"I have no future in Russia," he said.
But now, Sviridov's future lies in the hands of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
Before his three-week visa expired yesterday, Sviridov filed for political asylum on the grounds of ethnic persecution.
Irene Mortensen, spokeswoman for the INS office in Seattle, said Sviridov now must wait for a response that may take from a few weeks to a month, depending on the caseload.
Sviridov, who is from the Russian town of Voskresensk, 60 miles south of Moscow, is staying with a man in Bellevue and would not say who had helped him find shelter or name other places he had stayed.
But he beamed when asked about Seattle.
"Everything is so beautiful," he said. "It's such a clean city."
Since he left the ship, Sviridov has been taking in plenty of sight-seeing, working on his English and listening to rap music.
"I like Black Diamond," he said. "There's lots of rap music there."
Since his first visit to Vancouver, B.C. and New York City during a hockey competition two years ago, Sviridov had hopes of returning to America. He says he didn't plan to stay before arriving in Seattle, that his decision was spontaneous.
But George Spruksts, a local Russian community leader, who translated for Sviridov, says the sailor faces a court martial with a minimum eight-year jail term under Russian military law.
"For all practical purposes, Russia is another Yugoslavia," said Spruksts. "The prison system, despite appearances of democracy in government, is still the same old system. . . ."
The young sailor fears being beaten by other ethnic groups in Russia and said he had been attacked before because he is Russian.
Sviridov also added that his life has been threatened by the other sailors who were aboard the ship with him since he left.
He plans to celebrate a Russian Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7 with Spruksts and his family.
Although Sviridov is in good legal standing with the United States, he is still wary of his future here.
When asked what he hopes to accomplish in this country, Sviridov hesitated.
"It's uncertain what will happen. Not everything is clear yet," he said.
One thing's for sure, Sviridov said he has no plans of marrying a woman in her 40s from Kent who offered to be his wife so that he could stay.
Sviridov says he has a girlfriend back home.
Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.