The Russian couple Igor Khashin and his wife, Yulia Khashina, spoke for the first time since the controversy broke out with the reception of Ukrainian refugees in Setúbal, guaranteeing that they did not send any information about the refugees received to the Russian authorities and that they only participated in the reception due to “to work experience in the area of immigration”.
“It all started suddenly and nobody was prepared, there were also people who contacted us directly and asked what could be done”, said Igor Khashin in an interview published in the newspapers Público and O Setubalense.
It is recalled that the couple, who were involved in the reception process led by the Municipality of Setúbal, have worked within the scope of Edinstvo, Association of Immigrants from Eastern Countries, and are said to be close to the regime of Vladimir Putin: Igor Khasgin, in addition to being a member of Edinstvo, he is former president of the Russian House and of the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots. The woman is a municipal employee in Setúbal.
The two guarantee that they were contacted, at the beginning of the war, by Ukrainians, since they have lived in Portugal “for more than 20 years”.
“Our association was founded in 2002 to respond to the needs of immigrants, we work with everyone. Most of the association are immigrants from the East, mostly Ukrainians, Moldovans, Russians. But Russians are very few”, said Igor Khashin, also guaranteeing that he is not a Russian spy: “I did not transmit the data [dos refugiados] the embassy or any Russian authority. And I’m willing to be subjected to a truth machine.”
The Russian also guaranteed that he worked in the reception of refugees as a volunteer and that he used computers provided by the Municipality of Setúbal, always accompanied by a technician from the municipality. “She was the one who filled out the forms,” he explained, referring to the documentation needed to submit the request for temporary protection to the SEF.
“We have to digitize the documents and attach them to the platform. The questions, posed by the SEF platform, and not by us, are the mother’s name, father’s name, place of birth, household. Everything has to be filled in”, explained Yulia Khashina.
The paper files were kept in the chamber’s office and the only place they were sent was the Employment and Vocational Training Institute, for enrollment in the Portuguese course, the Russian citizen also said.
About whether he spoke to refugees in Russian, he said yes, but that he understood Ukrainian, and recalled that in Eastern Europe, Russian “is practically like English in Western Europe”, a “language of communication, of instrument”.
“We didn’t even think about that question, who will take care of the refugees, whether Russians or Ukrainians. We didn’t even think. There was an emergency situation that no one expected.”added Yulia.
Khashin says he’s “pro-human”
The couple also said that the association they founded has served thousands of immigrants in 20 years, most of them Ukrainian – “because it is the most represented community” – and that everything was done “with good intentions and in accordance with all established procedures”.
“We were in a situation where we have to prove that we are not bad. I was shocked”, Yulia said, lamenting: “Our work of 20 years was destroyed in one day.”
Both said they saw the war in Ukraine as “a tragedy” and, as for the investigation by the judiciary, Igor replied: “The judiciary does its job, let it do what it must do, we have nothing to hide.” They also mentioned that they never asked questions to try to identify fighters in Ukraine.
“To fill in the data, we always have to ask about the household. In the service, the people themselves spoke about their father, mother, relatives who stayed there“, said Igor. “Now, get this data for collection, for registration or to send to someone? No!” he assured.
Regarding links to the Russian regime, Khashin assured that he is only on the side of the people. “In my situation, it’s irresponsible to point out whether I’m on one side or the other. I’m on the human side. If it’s necessary to give help to people in need, refugees and other people from the East who also suffer some persecution or pressure, I help . It is incorrect and irresponsible to say that I am for one regime or another. I have been in Portugal for 20 years. I am pro-human and what interests me is what is going to happen at this moment to all communities in Portugal.”