Russian men join exodus for fear of being called out to fight in Ukraine


ISTANBUL (AP) — Older military men fled Russia in droves on Friday, filling planes to avoid being rounded up to fight in Ukraine following the Kremlin’s partial military mobilization. caused a traffic jam at the border checkpoint.

According to Yandex Maps, a Russian online map service, there was a 10-kilometer queue on the road leading to the southern border with Georgia.

The lines of cars at the border with Kazakhstan were so long that some people abandoned their cars and traveled on foot. Just like she did some Ukrainians after Russia invaded their country on February 24th.

Meanwhile, dozens of flights from Russia were sold at very high prices, carrying men to international destinations such as Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Serbia, where Russians do not require visas. .

Among those who ended up in Turkey was a 41-year-old who planned to land in Istanbul with suitcases and backpacks and start a new life in Israel.

“I am against this war and I will not participate in it. I am not going to be a murderer. I am not going to kill people,” he said of potential retaliation for his family left behind in Russia. To avoid it, said a man who only identified himself as Evgeny.

He called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal”.

Yevgeny decided to flee after Putin announced a partial military call-up on Wednesday.The total number of reservists involved could be as high as 300,000.

Some Russian men fled to neighboring Belarus, a close ally of Russia. But it came with risks.

The Nasha Niva newspaper, one of Belarus’s oldest independent newspapers, said Belarusian security forces were ordered to track down Russians fleeing conscription, find them in hotels and rented apartments, and report them to Russian authorities. reported.

German government officials have expressed a desire to help Russian men who have renounced military service and have sought a European solution.

“People who have braved the Putin regime and thereby put themselves in great danger can apply for asylum in Germany on the grounds of political persecution,” said a spokesperson for Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Feser. rice field.

Spokesman Maximilian Kull said deserters and those who refuse to be drafted get refugee status in Germany if they are at risk of serious repression, but all cases will be examined on an individual basis. will be

However, they first have to get to Germany, which does not border Russia, making it much more difficult for Russians to travel, as in other European Union countries.

The EU has banned direct flights between 27 member states and Russia after the attack on Ukraine and recently agreed to limit the issuance of Schengen visas that allow free movement in large parts of Europe. did.

Four of the five EU countries bordering Russia (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland) have also recently decided to ban Russian tourists.

Some European officials see the fugitive Russians as a potential security risk. They hope that not opening borders will increase pressure on Putin at home.

Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Linkevich said on Thursday that many of the fugitives were “okay to kill Ukrainians. They didn’t protest then. It’s not right to consider them conscientious objectors.”

The only EU member state that still accepts Russians with Schengen visas is Finland, which shares a border of 1,340 kilometers (830 miles) with Russia.

Finnish border guards said on Friday that the number of people entering the country from Russia had risen sharply, with media reporting a 107% increase compared to last week.

At Valimaa, one of the busiest checkpoints on the border, the line of waiting cars stretched for half a kilometer (a third of a mile), according to Finnish border guards.

Finnish broadcaster MTV aired an interview with a Russian man who had just crossed into Finland at the Vilolahti border crossing. Among them was a man named Yuri from Moscow who said that “sane people” did not want to go to war.

Andrei Balakilov, a Russian from St. Petersburg, said he was mentally ready to leave Russia for six months, but postponed mobilization.

“I think it’s really bad,” he said.

Valery, from Samara on his way to Spain, agreed, calling the mobilization “a great tragedy”.

“It is difficult to explain what is happening. I feel sorry for those who are forced to fight against their will. I have heard stories of people being given these orders in the streets. – That’s horrible.

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Associated Press reporter Frank Jordans in Berlin. Vanessa Guerra in Warsaw, Poland. Jan M. Olsen, Copenhagen, Denmark. and he of Istanbul contributed by Zeynep Bilginsoy.