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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Swiss Man Asks Minsk for Asylum, Then Leaves

A Swiss citizen who asked for refugee status in Belarus has returned to Switzerland without explanation after spending 10 days in the country, Belarussian officials said.

The Swiss asylum seeker, 32, entered Belarus on Nov. 28 at a checkpoint on the Poland-Belarus border, saying he wanted to live and work in Belarus, said Vitaly Aksyonov, head of the citizenship and migration department in the Brest region of Belarus.

Aksyonov dealt directly with the request of the Swiss man, whom he declined to identify at the foreigner's request.

"He filled out an application for refugee status," Aksyonov said Friday.

Since he had no entry visa, applying for asylum was the only way the Swiss man could be allowed into Belarus, Aksyonov said.

The man cited no political motives for leaving Switzerland. "Nobody oppressed him there," Aksyonov said.

The Swiss man arrived at the border driving a Lada with a collection of books authored by Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin in the trunk, Noviye Izvestia reported Friday. He claimed that Belarus, Venezuela and Cuba were the best countries in the world.

While his asylum application was being processed, Belarussian authorities checked the foreigner into a hotel in Brest and allowed him to move around the city of 300,000, which is located near the Polish border, Aksyonov said.

The one condition was that he return to the hotel before 11 p.m. for safety reasons.

"Such a decision was made because it gets dark early in winter, and the man doesn't know the city and could easily get lost," Aksyonov said. "We didn't have the means to provide him with a personal guide to show him around."

The Belarussian migration service began preparing the Swiss man's asylum paperwork, but before it could be completed, the would-be refugee suddenly changed his mind and left Belarus on Dec. 7, Aksyonov said.

Belarussian Interior Ministry spokesman Oleg Slepchenko and Belarussian Border Guard Service spokesman Yury Kozachenko confirmed the curious case but would not provide further details.

Komsomolskaya Pravda suggested on Friday that the asylum application might have been a scheme dreamed up by the Swiss man to get a free 10-day vacation -- a theory Aksyonov dismissed.

"I don't think so, because he didn't go anywhere else [in Belarus] except Brest," Aksyonov said. "He could have bought a [train] ticket for himself and gone anywhere he wanted. He had money with him."

A Swiss Embassy official in Minsk said by telephone that the embassy was aware of the case from the media but that it could not get involved because the country in which a refugee asks for asylum has no right to disclose information about the applicant. "Especially to the country where he is from," said the official, Dietrich Dreyer.

Swiss authorities will not investigate the case, Dietrich said. "Switzerland is a free country, and any of its citizens can do whatever he wants," Dietrich said.

Belarus has been dubbed in the West as Europe's last dictatorship. In April 2006, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree simplifying the procedure for granting asylum to foreigners.