Russian men join exodus, fearing call-up to fight in Ukraine

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

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

The strains 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 reminiscent of 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 in opposition to this warfare, and I’m not going to be part of it. I’m not going to be a assassin. I’m not going to kill folks,” mentioned the person, who recognized himself solely as Yevgeny to keep away from potential retribution in opposition to his household left behind in Russia.

He referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “warfare legal.”

Yevgeny determined to flee after Putin introduced a partial army call-up on Wednesday. The full variety of reservists concerned may very well be as excessive as 300,000.

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

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

German authorities officers voiced a want to assist Russian males deserting army service, they usually referred to as for a European answer.

“Those that bravely stand as much as Putin’s regime and thereby put themselves in nice hazard can apply for asylum in Germany on the grounds of political persecution,” the spokesman for German Inside 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 severe repression, although each case is examined individually.

However they might first need to make it to Germany, which has no land border with Russia, and like different European Union international locations has turn 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 is going to improve stress in opposition to Putin at house.

Latvian Overseas Minister Edgars Rinkevics mentioned Thursday that lots of these fleeing “had been fantastic with killing Ukrainians. They didn’t protest then. It’s not proper to think about 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 coming into from Russia has climbed sharply, with media reporting a 107% improve 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 individual” needs to go to warfare.

A Russian man from St. Petersburg, Andrei Balakirov, mentioned he had been mentally ready to go away Russia for half a 12 months however put it off till the mobilization.

“I believe it’s a very dangerous factor,” he mentioned.

Valery, a person from Samara who was heading to Spain, agreed, calling the mobilization “a terrific tragedy.”

“It’s arduous to explain what’s occurring. I really feel sorry for individuals who are compelled to struggle in opposition to their will. I’ve heard tales that individuals have been given these orders proper within 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.

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