‘They believed he was alive’ Russian national who disappeared 20 years ago freed from forced labor in Kazakhstan. His family tried to find him, but never went to the police.
Police in Kazakhstan have freed a Russian national from modern-day slavery, the local news outlets New Times and Tengrinews reported this week. Police officers tracked the man down in the Shet district of the Karaganda region in central Kazakhstan, after they came across a video of him pleading for help from his family. The man in the video, who identified himself as Alexey Kotov, went missing over 20 years ago after he was assaulted at a train station. Kotov’s family members, who live in Russia’s Yaroslavl region, told the local human rights commissioner that they believed Alexey was alive and made attempts to find him, but never reached out to Russian law enforcement agencies for help.
While conducting “social media monitoring” police in Kazakhstan came across a video that helped them free a missing Russian national from forced labor.
The man in the video was appealing to his mother and father to help him “get out of Kazakhstan.” In the clip, in he identifies himself as Alexey Alexandrovich Kotov and says that he’s from Gore-Gryaz, a small town in the Gavrilov-Yamsky district of Russia’s Yaroslavl region. He explains that he has spent the last 20 years enslaved in Kazakhstan and gives his current location as a winter camp in the Karaganda region.
Kazakhstani law enforcement officials told reporters that when they located Alexey Kotov, the Russian national looked as if “he hadn’t seen any creature comforts” and had “only worked, and worked, and worked.”
Alexey told the police that for 20 years, he had been subjected to illegal exploitation and forced labor at the hands of a 44-year-old local. The suspect was detained and police launched a pre-trial investigation on charges of illegal imprisonment. According to the New Times, the suspect is a farmer from the Karaganda region.
As it turns out, the family members Alexey appealed to in the video still live in the Yaroslavl region of Russia. Regional Human Rights Commissioner Sergey Baburkin confirmed that Kotov’s sisters, 80-year-old father, and 70-year-old mother do in fact reside in the Gavrilov-Yamsky district, just as he said in the video.
The Kotov family told Baburkin that Alexey joined the army in 1995, serving first in Russia and then in Kazakhstan. After he was demobilized, he came home for a short period of time, before returning to serve in Kazakhstan on a contract basis. According to his family members, Alexey was planning to return to Russia, but he went missing after getting beaten up at a train station. Following the assault, he was abducted and handed over to a farm owner, who used him as a forced laborer. The last time Alexey contacted his family was in 1999, his sister told Komsomolskaya Pravda.
Kotov’s family members said they tried to find ways to get in contact with him — they wrote letters to a woman who cared for him in the hospital when he was recovering from the assault, and reached out to a Russian military commissariat. However, according to Baburkin, the family never actually informed Russian law enforcement that Alexey was missing. As they explained to the rights commissioner, in the early 2000s, they reached out to the television program “Wait for Me” — a popular talk show and government service for finding missing persons — and consulted “fortune-tellers, psychics, and so on.” “They believed that he was alive, and these fortune-tellers confirmed this to them. And this is how this case dragged on,” Baburkin told reporters.
Alexey Kotov is currently under the protection of the Russian consulate in Kazakhstan. In a post on Instagram, the Yaroslavl region’s Acting Governor Mikhail Yevrayev promised to help the Russian national return to his home country and to restore his documents. “Upon his return, we will send Alexey to a sanatorium,” the acting governor wrote. “Then we will help him [find] work, if necessary. The district authorities will provide the utmost assistance.”