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Latvia refused to grant asylum to Russian director Sergei Shchiptsin

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Collage: The Gaze
Collage: The Gaze

Latvia has refused to consider the asylum request submitted by Russian director Sergei Shchiptsin.

According to the Delfi portal, the decision by the Administrative District Court on June 1 stated that the Russian citizen entered the territory of the EU through Estonia on August 30, 2022. He had a Russian passport and a Schengen visa category "C" issued by France, valid from June 2, 2022, to June 1, 2023.

The court ruling did not mention the person's name, but the LETA agency found out that it referred to theater director Sergei Shchiptsin from St. Petersburg, whose productions are staged in Latvian and Russian theaters.

On November 15, 2022, Shchiptsin applied to the State Border Guard for refugee status or alternative status in Latvia. In April of this year, the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (PMLP) made a decision to transfer the man's request to France, based on the European Parliament Regulation.

Disagreeing with the administration's decision, the Russian citizen appealed to the District Administrative Court. In court, he claimed that he did not have a Russian passport because it was left with the State Border Guard. Instead of a passport, he was issued an identification card as a person seeking asylum in Latvia.

Sergei Shchiptsin also disagreed with the PMLP's decision because he has the opportunity to work in Latvia. He is a director who previously worked in Latvian theaters: in 2009 in Riga, in 2017 in Valmiera, and in 2019 in Liepaja. On May 18 of this year, the premiere of the play "Rebellion" took place at the Cesu Mazaja Theater. The theater wants to continue cooperation with the director.

In addition, Shchiptsin is currently in negotiations with the Joriks theater in Rezekne, where a new production is planned for September of this year. Negotiations are also underway with representatives of the Riga Russian Theater named after Chekhov, as well as with the Liepaja and Valmiera theaters.

Shchiptsin claims that he has a place to live in Latvia, he is learning the Latvian language, and is ready to take the state language exam. According to the director, he cannot return to Russia for political reasons because he does not support Russia's war against Ukraine. That is why the applicant left Russia on August 29, 2022, and did not want his taxes to support military actions.

Despite the applicant's arguments, the Latvian court rejected the Russian theater director's application to cancel the PMLP decision.

The court noted that France, as an EU member, is generally capable of ensuring the protection of individuals' rights on its territory. France is considered a safe country and can provide political asylum. From the case materials, it can be seen that the PMLP received a response from the competent French authority, which took responsibility for considering the applicant's request for asylum.

Evaluating the case materials, the court did not confirm the existence of objective obstacles for Shchiptsin to start learning the French language if necessary, thereby integrating into French society.

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