Russian Men Join Exodus, Fearing Call-up To Fight In Ukraine

ISTANBUL (AP) — Army-aged males fled Russia in droves Friday, filling planes and inflicting visitors jams at border crossings to keep away from being rounded as much as battle in Ukraine following the Kremlin’s partial army mobilization.

Queues stretching for 10 kilometers (6 miles) shaped on a highway resulting in the southern border with Georgia, in response to Yandex Maps, a Russian on-line map service.

The traces of vehicles had been so lengthy on the border with Kazakhstan that some folks deserted their autos and proceeded on foot — simply as some Ukrainians did after Russia invaded their nation on Feb. 24.

In the meantime, dozens of flights out of Russia — with tickets bought at sky-high costs — carried males to worldwide locations comparable to Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Serbia, the place Russians don’t want visas.

Amongst those that reached Turkey was a 41-year-old who landed in Istanbul with a suitcase and a backpack and plans to start out 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,” mentioned 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 entire variety of reservists concerned might be as excessive as 300,000.

Some Russian males additionally fled to neighboring Belarus, Russia’s shut ally. However that carried danger.

The Nasha Niva newspaper, one of many oldest impartial newspapers in Belarus, reported that Belarusian safety companies had been ordered to trace down Russians fleeing from the draft, discover them in resorts and rented flats and report them to Russian authorities.

Russian authorities tried to calm an anxious public concerning the draft.

Legislators launched a invoice Friday that might droop or cut back mortgage funds for Russians known as up for responsibility. Information shops emphasised that draftees would have the identical standing as skilled troopers and be paid the identical, and that their civilian jobs can be held for them.

The Protection Ministry mentioned that many individuals who work in excessive tech, communications or finance shall be exempt from the call-up “to ensure the operations’’ of those fields, the Tass news agency reported.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the fact that Russians were leaving their country to avoid conscription shows that the war in Ukraine is “unpopular.”

“What Putin is doing — he is not coming from a place of strength,” Jean-Pierre instructed reporters. “He is coming from a place of weakness.”

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 consequence was preordained by Moscow.

German authorities officers voiced a need to assist Russian males deserting army service, and so they known as for a European resolution.

“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 mentioned.

The spokesman, Maximilian Kall, mentioned 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.

However they’d first should make it to Germany, which has no land border with Russia, and like different European Union international locations has change into far tougher for Russians to journey to.

The EU banned direct flights between its 27 member states and Russia after the assault on Ukraine, and just lately agreed to restrict issuing Schengen visas, which permit free motion throughout a lot of Europe.

4 out of 5 EU international locations that border Russia — Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland — additionally just lately determined to show away Russian vacationers.

Some European officers view fleeing Russians as potential safety dangers. They hope that by not opening their borders, it would enhance strain towards Putin at dwelling.

Latvian Overseas Minister Edgars Rinkevics mentioned Thursday that lots 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 mentioned 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 mentioned.

Finnish broadcaster MTV carried interviews with Russian males who had simply crossed into Finland on the Virolahti border crossing, together with with a person named Yuri from Moscow who mentioned that no “sane person” desires to go to conflict.

A Russian man from St. Petersburg, Andrei Balakirov, mentioned 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 mentioned.

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.”

Related Press writers Frank Jordans in Berlin; Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland; Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark; and Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul contributed.