Serbia revokes an expulsion order for a Russian woman after a public outcry

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — After a public outcry, Serbia’s authorities have revoked an expulsion order for a Russian woman who signed an open letter denouncing the invasion of Ukraine, a pro-democracy Russian group in the Balkan country said on Friday.

Police told Elena Koposova that her appeal has been granted and that she can stay in Serbia, where she has lived with her family since 2019, the Russian Democratic Society group said in a statement.

“The annulment of Elena’s expulsion (order) is a great victory for us all,” the group said. “We are glad the Serbian state is correcting its mistakes but we are convinced this would not have been possible without active and warm (public) support.”

Koposova was given no explanation when she was told in early February that she must leave the country. The 54-year-old literature translator, her partner and their two children, had built a house in Serbia and were seeking permanent residence.

Koposova was among a number of anti-war Russians in Serbia whose residence permits have been revoked for unspecified reasons of national security. She told the AP in a recent interview that the only reason she could think of was her signature on the March 2022 letter against the war in Ukraine.

Serbia has maintained its long-time friendly relations with Russia, refusing to join Western sanctions against Moscow over the war in Ukraine even as it formally seeks membership in the European Union. Activists and experts believe measures against some anti-war Russians reflect close political and security ties.

Serbian authorities have not commented on the issue.

The Russian Democratic Society statement said authorities told Koposova that her residence permit will be renewed in an expedient procedure. Koposova’s case has rallied public support, with rights group demanding she be allowed to stay and thousands of people signing an online petition.

Tens of thousands of Russians have moved to Serbia in recent years, fleeing President Vladimir Putin’s regime and Western sanctions, or to avoid being drafted to fight in Ukraine.

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