Military-aged men fled Russia in droves Friday, filling planes and inflicting visitors jams at border crossings to keep away from being rounded up to fight in Ukraine following the Kremlin’s partial army mobilization .
Queues stretching for 10 kilometers (6 miles) shaped on a street main to the southern border with Georgia, in accordance to Yandex Maps, a Russian on-line map service.
The strains of vehicles have been so lengthy on the border with Kazakhstan that some folks deserted their automobiles and proceeded on foot — simply as some Ukrainians did after Russia invaded their nation on Feb. 24.
Meanwhile, dozens of flights out of Russia — with tickets bought at sky-high costs — carried men to worldwide locations corresponding to Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Serbia, the place Russians do not want visas.
Among those that reached Turkey was a 41-year-old who landed in Istanbul with a suitcase and a backpack and plans to begin a brand new life in Israel.
“I’m against this war, and I’m not going to be a part of it. I’m not going to be a murderer. I’m not going to kill people,” stated the person, who recognized himself solely as Yevgeny to keep away from potential retribution towards his household left behind in Russia.
He referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal.”
Yevgeny determined to flee after Putin introduced a partial army call-up on Wednesday. The whole variety of reservists concerned might be as excessive as 300,000.
Some Russian men additionally fled to neighboring Belarus, Russia’s shut ally. But that carried threat.
The Nasha Niva newspaper, one of many oldest unbiased newspapers in Belarus, reported that Belarusian safety companies have been ordered to observe down Russians fleeing from the draft, discover them in accommodations and rented flats and report them to Russian authorities.
The exodus unfolded as a Kremlin-orchestrated referendum obtained underway searching for to make occupied areas of Ukraine a part of Russia. Kyiv and the West condemned it as a rigged election whose end result was preordained by Moscow.
German authorities officers voiced a want to assist Russian men deserting army service, and so they referred to as for a European answer.
“Those who bravely stand up to Putin’s regime and thereby put themselves in great danger can apply for asylum in Germany on the grounds of political persecution,” the spokesman for German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser stated.
The spokesman, Maximilian Kall, stated deserters and people refusing to be drafted would obtain refugee standing in Germany if they’re prone to critical repression, although each case is examined individually.
But they’d first have to make it to Germany, which has no land border with Russia, and like different European Union international locations has develop into far harder for Russians to journey to.
The EU banned direct flights between its 27 member states and Russia after the assault on Ukraine, and not too long ago agreed to restrict issuing Schengen visas, which permit free motion throughout a lot of Europe.
Four out of 5 EU international locations that border Russia — Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland — additionally not too long ago determined to flip away Russian vacationers.
Some European officers view fleeing Russians as potential safety dangers. They hope that by not opening their borders, it should enhance stress towards Putin at house.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics stated Thursday that a lot of these fleeing “were fine with killing Ukrainians. They did not protest then. It is not right to consider them as conscientious objectors.”
The one EU nation that’s nonetheless accepting Russians with Schengen visas is Finland, which has a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia.
Finland border guards stated Friday that the variety of folks getting into from Russia has climbed sharply, with media reporting a 107% enhance in contrast with final week.
At Vaalimaa, one of many busiest crossings on the border, the road of ready vehicles stretched for half a kilometer (a 3rd of a mile), the Finnish Border Guard stated.
Finnish broadcaster MTV carried interviews with Russian men who had simply crossed into Finland on the Virolahti border crossing, together with with a person named Yuri from Moscow who stated that no “sane person” needs to go to battle.
A Russian man from St. Petersburg, Andrei Balakirov, stated he had been mentally ready to depart Russia for half a yr however put it off till the mobilization.
“I think it’s a really bad thing,” he stated.
Valery, a person from Samara who was heading to Spain, agreed, calling the mobilization “a great tragedy.”
“It’s hard to describe what’s happening. I feel sorry for those who are forced to fight against their will. I’ve heard stories that people have been given these orders right in the streets — scary.”
Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Berlin; Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland; Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark; and Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul contributed.
This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune .
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