A Russian man who effectively sought political asylum in Japan before the start of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine said Thursday that Japanese immigration authorities have granted him special permission to stay.

In mid-March, the man, who has spoken out against Russian President Vladimir Putin's government, was granted a one-year "designated activities" visa, which has no restrictions on movement and permits employment under certain conditions.

He said he feared he would be imprisoned or sent to fight in the war on Ukraine if he returned home.

The building that houses the Immigration Services Agency of Japan in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on April 25, 2024. (Kyodo)

While it is rare for a Russian citizen to be granted permission to stay in Japan after applying for refugee status, the government likely took into account the severe Russian crackdowns on anti-regime sentiment that have occurred since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In the five years through 2023, many of the individuals who have been granted refugee status or given a special residency permit based on humanitarian considerations were from Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and no Russian was included, according to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan.

The agency has yet to release data for this year.

The man entered Japan before the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and applied for refugee status while being detained in an immigration facility.

He was later permitted provisional release but his entry details and location have not been disclosed due to concerns he could be surveilled by Russian authorities.

The case comes after Japanese immigration authorities last year granted long-term visas as a special exception to two Russian women who left their country in opposition to its invasion of Ukraine.

The pair, who were permitted to switch from short-term to student visas without first returning to their home country as normally required, did not apply for refugee status.

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