An estimated 98,000 Russians have fled to neighboring Kazakhstan since President Putin announced Russia’s first conscription orders since World War Two, Kazakh officials confirmed on Tuesday, Sep. 27.
Since Putin’s address on Sep. 21, thousands of Russian citizens have desperately endeavored to leave the country to avoid being forced to fight in the ongoing illegal invasion of Ukraine.
Many of those fleeing Russia have entered neighboring EU countries, mainly via Finnish and Estonian border crossing points, EU border agency Frontex said in a statement on Sep. 27, adding that around 30,000 had arrived in the last four days.
The agency also confirmed that most of those arriving have visas, permits, or dual citizenships. However, it predicted that illegal border crossings will likely increase if Russia closes its borders to potential conscripts.
The former Soviet states of Georgia and Kazakhstan have proven to be the most popular destinations, with Russian citizens attempting to cross by car in the main, but also on foot or bicycles – with photos of piles of abandoned bikes now being widely circulated on social media platforms.
Announcing on the evening of Sep. 27 that the number of Russians crossing into Kazakhstan had now reached around 98,000, Interior Minister Marat Akhmetzhanov confirmed that his country would not send draft-dodgers back to Russia unless they appear on an international wanted list for criminal charges.
At the same time, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered assistance for Russians entering his country “because of the current hopeless situation.”
“We must take care of them and ensure their safety,” he said. “It is a political and a humanitarian issue. I tasked the government to take the necessary measures,”
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 people have been detained at protests across Russia, with many Russian citizens opposing conscription experiencing police brutality.
“We are deeply disturbed by the large number of people who have reportedly been arrested,” UN rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said on Sep. 27.
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