Russian WWII veteran asks Obama for asylum
A Russian World War II veteran has appealed to President Barack Obama for asylum, more than 50 years after he helped liberate American troops, blaming his "desperate" circumstances.
Anton Karavanets, 83, posted his appeal to Obama from his home in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg, ahead of Russia's grandiose Victory Day celebrations on May 9, according to a copy of the letter sent to AFP on Friday.
"The operation was at the end of August 1945 in Mukden," Karavanets wrote about his participation in the Soviet offensive against Japanese-occupied Manchuria, when he was just 18.
"In response to our heroic actions liberating American soldiers, the US Army leadership gratefully offered us the chance to move to the US to begin a new life," he writes, adding that he declined the offer.
The Soviet soldiers refused the offer because they feared reprisals against their relatives back home from Josef Stalin's regime, the letter says.
The disabled veteran now lives in rented accommodation that he pays for from his pension despite the government's promises to provide all WWII veterans with housing, says the letter, dated April 28.
His attempts to secure an apartment have been rejected by Saint Petersburg's authorities and courts because he has lived in the city for less than a decade, Karavanets wrote.
"I feel completely unwanted by my country," he added.
"I am very sorry I did not use the invitation in 1945 and did not move to live in the United States. Dear Mr. Obama, could I use the invitation now?"
"I am 83 and full of energy and desire to live, but my country does not need me," he said, asking to be put in touch with US veteran organizations.
The US consulate in Saint Petersburg could not confirm reception of Karavanets' letter on Friday.
"The US Consulate General periodically receives letters from Russian citizens that are addressed to top US leaders, taking appropriate actions," the consulate told AFP in an emailed statement.
Russia celebrates victory in the Great Patriotic War, its domestic term for World War II, on May 9. The festivities in Moscow will include a military parade with tanks, helicopters and a brass band of 1,500 musicians.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reiterated the government's commitment to veterans in a Friday televised address, saying that "supporting veterans... will also be a priority in our work".
© 2011 AFP