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The Case of Dr John Gordon: 77-year-old facing deportation from Russia

posted 30 Jan 2014, 00:59 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 30 Jan 2014, 01:10 ]
29 January 2014

PRESS RELEASE on behalf of: Dr John Gordon, a British citizen

From: Peter Robbins (a friend of Dr Gordon)

Subject: Denial of Human Rights in Russia

Photo of Dr John Gordon supplied by Peter Robbins


Dr John Gordon, a retired British Scientist, who has lived in Samara, Russia for 15 years, failed to renew his yearly teacher’s visa on the day of expiry in August 2013. He was in a Russian hospital at the time, undergoing major surgery. In all of his 15 years in Russia he has had many visas but on each occasion has left Russia before the visa expired, and renewed it with the Russian Embassy in London.

Applications to renew his visa on the day following expiry were rejected. He was arrested and adjudged to have broken the law and sentenced to be expelled from Russia. Although he has very strong support from citizens in Samara and from Human Rights organisations, and has lodged two appeals, the Russian Authorities are adamant that he will be deported.


In 2012 a total of 12,000 foreigners were expelled from Russia on the grounds of violation (however minor) of immigration laws. In 2013 this number rose to 65,000.

The various State organisations follow the lead from the top.


Dr John Gordon is a British citizen from Hertfordshire. He is 77 years old.

He is a scientist and, following a successful corporate career which included a term as Technical Director with Express Dairies, he acted as an adviser on dairy products for governments in several countries. In recent years he worked as a consultant on several EU-funded agricultural and food projects in Russia. Two of these were in the Samara oblast (region), and he came to like the area so much that he decided in 1994 to settle in Samara city. He lives in Samara, bought his own apartment and dacha - which were handed over to a Russian friend when purchased, since, in those days, foreigners were not allowed to own property. He returns to the UK for a fortnight each quarter, to visit friends and relatives. In 2001, having retired from his scientific work, he commenced work with the British Council as a part-time teacher of English to Russian students. In 2006 he invested the necessary money for a Russian friend (as Administrator) to acquire an existing (but rundown) English language school in Samara – The Oxford English Centre - and Dr Gordon has directed the school ever since. He has also opened another School in another city. He has come to regard Samara as his home, has learned conversational Russian, and has become a well-liked figure in local society. He has never, in all the years of his Russian residence, been in any kind of trouble.

He is obliged to renew his Russian visa every twelve months.


In early 2013 Dr Gordon was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and received hormone therapy at the Samara Oncology Hospital. However, his condition deteriorated and, on returning to Samara from a brief visit to the UK, he was admitted on August 5th to the Hospital for an operation to remove his prostate gland. In a distressed state of mind before the operation, he had forgotten that his visa should have been renewed on August 5th. The operation was performed on August 15th and he was discharged on August 31st. The surgeon advised return to the hospital four weeks later to begin a course of irradiation therapy.

In the meantime, the lady School Administrator went to the OVIR (Immigration Ministry) offices on August 6th (one day after visa expiry) and on three further occasions to register him, but was given different, conflicting, answers on each occasion, and his visa renewal was refused. She was finally told that John was now an illegal immigrant.

On August 16th, two officials from UFMS (Russian Immigration Police) entered the ward in which he was recuperating from the previous day’s operation and announced that they had come to arrest him on a charge of breaking the law by having an out-of-date visa. A doctor intervened, and begged them to leave the matter until Dr Gordon had recovered sufficiently to return to his apartment.

On September 4th, four days after returning to his apartment, when he was very weak and could barely walk, the UFMS officials came again early in the morning, arrested him, and took him to the Police Station. After one hour, they took him to Samara city court. He had no interpreter, but managed to understand that the UFMS officer was saying terrible things about him, implying that he was very dangerous to Russia. He was not allowed to say anything except his name, date of birth, and nationality. The case took ten minutes, the judge found him guilty of being without a valid visa, and sentenced him to a fine of 2,000 roubles, and ordered him to be deported for a minimum of 5 years. The sentence is Draconian, and totally out of proportion to the gravity of the ‘crime’. Expulsion would be devastating – John would lose the life he has built up over the past 15 years, apart from the large amount of money he has invested in the two schools. Closing these schools would put 13 teachers and staff members out of a job.

Russian friends rallied round and engaged a lawyer, who lodged an appeal with the city court. This appeal was heard on December 26th(when John was in another hospital receiving treatment for high blood pressure) but failed. The lawyer then appealed to the regional ‘Prokuror’. (This word is sometimes translated as ‘procurator’ -an agent working on somebody’s behalf – but the more correct translation is ‘Prosecutor’). This appeal also failed on January 9th. Dr Gordon was not present at this second hearing, since he was not advised of it until after it took place. At both hearings, the original court sentence was upheld.

Appeals for help sent by Dr Gordon to the British Embassy in Moscow were answered by a terse reply that they “do not get involved in Russian laws relating to immigration problems”. They did however send him a list of very expensive Moscow lawyers, but John cannot afford their fees.

A friend in England sent a letter to the Russian Embassy in London and also wrote to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) who stated they could not interfere with the judicial process of another country. The Samara Human Rights Organisation organised several events publicising John’s case – but to no avail.

An appeal is now being prepared for a submission to the ‘Prokuror General’ at the Federal Court in Moscow, and to the European Office of the Court of Human Rights in Moscow.

In the meantime, the hospital has been forbidden to give Dr Gordon the essential radiotherapy treatment which he needs. This is an outrageous denial of human rights.

He expects that any day, the officials will return to carry out the court order, and forcibly put him on a plane to London. However, his blood pressure is (understandably) at a very high level, and the doctors (who have also been forbidden to give him drugs to lower it) have advised him that he should not fly.

All he wants is to be left in peace to end his days in Samara where he is happy, and to continue to work at his English Language Schools.

Given the high profile release of (mostly celebrity) prisoners in Russia on the eve of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, it is amazing that officials at regional level are behaving in this cruel and irrational way.

The British media are currently highlighting the treatment of homosexuals in Russia, but perhaps they might spare a thought also for one non-celebrity Englishman who wants to continue to live there.

Dr John Gordon (in Russia) – mobile: 007 937 201 9214 email:

Peter Robbins (in England): 01462 742440 email:


‘Samara News’ EXTRACT FROM

Из России с любовью (From Russia with love)
24 Jan, 2014 at 8:14 PM

Персона нон грата. Областной суд бросил англичанина, не успевшего продлить визу, на произвол судьбы. Ученый и специалист с мировым именем, некогда востребованный на всех континентах, оказался ненужным в Самаре" (The regional court has thrown an Englishman, who did not have time to prolong his visa, to an arbitrary fate. This scientist and expert with a world reputation, in demand on all continents, is judged to be unnecessary in Samara)

He is an elderly man with a kindly appearance and a tremor in his hands which, until now, have done much for this country and this region.

A scientist and expert at international level, British citizen John Gordon has given most of his life to the modernization of agriculture and food processing all over the world, including here in Samara . He has travelled all over the globe and could have lived anywhere. But he chose Samara. The city to which he has devoted 15 years of his life and continues it today, disregarding illnesses and social status. The city in which he has engaged in the business favourite for today — English language teaching.

Tomorrow is his birthday – he will be 77. And now he waits for the decision of the Supreme court (in this country there is nothing further to hope for). If this court will not reverse the decision in favour of theEnglishman, he will be compelled to leave his home” [etc…..]

The Samara branch of the national TV channel ‘Russia1’ interviewed John on 28th January, and may screen the interview. (

The UFMS were invited to the interview but it is not known if their part of the interview will be screened.