Cardiff was not the first place that came to mind when businessman Alexei Smatko imagined Britain. No palaces; no Tussauds; no elbows or cold indifference.
But as a processing centre for asylum seekers, it became his reality. He fled here from Russia’s justice system, he says, after being “tortured” by police while in detention. He got to like it: “Cardiff has a beach just like Miami.”
Last year, Smatko broke from his Welsh anonymity to initiate a petition with a dozen fellow businessmen, asking Vladimir Putin to remove charges and allow them to return to Russia. He says his main aim was to overturn “fabricated” charges; residency was a secondary affair. Nonetheless, the list was taken up by one of the minor candidates for president, Boris Titov, who presented it to the Kremlin.
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