Elena Musikhina, a Russian scientist and professor at Irkutsk State Technical University and her husband fled to Canada after being informed by her vice rector that authorities in Russia were planning to accuse her of criminal activities due to her studies, writings and political activities. Musikhina was studying consequences and effects of industrial and military activities in Siberia around Lake Baikal. She had discovered that there were severe environmental problems. Some environmentalists in the area had accidents and died. Musikhina applied for asylum in Canada as her daughter is a permanent resident there. Her application was denied as have been her subsequent appeals. Her daughter reports that if Musikhina is returned to Russia, as planned on December 3rd, she will be arrested as soon as her plane touches ground. CCS has written the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, requesting he intercede in this case and either grant her and her husband asylum, as requested, or at least defer their removal order and conduct a pre-removal risk assessment. Letters of support from the international scientific community may be of great assistance in this matter. Time is of the essence.
The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
K1A 0A2 CANADA
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We write to express our concern over the situation facing Russian scientist and professor at Irkutsk State Technical University, Elena Musikhina, who applied for asylum in Canada. The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board turned down the couple’s (Elena and her husband) application for refugee protection in June 2016. However, their situation appears quite dire and they are scheduled for deportation on December 3rd. We would ask that you review their case and reconsider this decision. Failure to do so could very well result in their arrest as soon as they land on Russian soil.
Dr. Musikhina and her husband fled to Canada (where her daughter is a permanent resident) after she was called before the vice rector of the Irkutsk State Technical University in September 2015 and warned that authorities planned to accuse her under the Russian criminal code for her political activities. She and her husband fled to St. Petersburg and left Russia for Canada in October 2015.
Musikhina was working on environmental issues which pointed out over 600,000 grave environmental problems related to industrial and military activity affecting Lake Baikal and its ecosystem. Several other people who were also working on the project had fatal accidents after she shared her information with them. The governor of the state had a helicopter crash while hunting and died; his son also died mysteriously; Musikhina’s dog was shot and she, herself, had shots fired over her head outside of her home. A young exchange student who was working on environmental issues and was a student at Moscow Linguistic University in Irkutsk had visited a town near Baikal Lake and was found dead the next morning. Forensic evidence indicates he was beaten prior to his death. A number of months before his death he was warned by authorities that his activities were not acceptable and would not be tolerated. Elena received a similar warning from her workplace and from authorities.
As numerous people affiliated with the environmental problems around Lake Baikal had already had serious accidents, the Musikhina’s did not want to find themselves in the same situation and left Russia as quickly as they could depart.
Their applications for refugee protection and asylum have been denied as have their appeals. They are almost out of options and their deportation date is rapidly approaching, with a return ticket already provided them. Under these circumstances, it appears that their return could have disastrous consequences.
Prime Minister, we ask that you please intercede in this situation and grant them asylum or defer their removal order and conduct a pre-removal risk assessment. Her research has turned up very serious environmental hazards that could affect many of us – nuclear waste, weapons production plants and the hazards that flow into the waters from that, animal species that are disappearing in that region as a result and the findings of large quantities of methane gasses.
Failure to intercede in Musikhina’s case, her deportation to Russia, likely followed by her arrest or assassination, would leave a terrible spot on Canada’s good reputation in matters related to refugees that we are sure you want to avoid. Thank you for your help in this regard and we urge you to move quickly.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists