In the wake of President Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilisation announcement, a growing number of potential conscripts are trying to leave the country, triggering a debate in Europe about facilitating entry for conscientious objectors to the war. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Russians to resist recruitment and flee. Commentators discuss whether they should be welcomed with open arms.

Today, Europe’s press debates the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. Here are some opinions from a selection of European publications, presented by eurotopics.

Take in those who flee

The aggressor can be weakened by taking in fleeing Russians, The Spectator agrees:

“If the West really wished to cripple the Putin regime, it would be welcoming fugitive Russians with open arms instead of attempting to bottle them up. … Putin wants to keep his brightest, richest and best close – indeed a common fear among many international-minded Russians is that he will close the borders. In effect, Europe is doing his work for him. But Boris Johnson had it right in March when he called for punishing Putin but helping Russians. The best way to do both is to help them leave his failing, war-crippled country.”

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Possibility of mass exodus

The Wiener Zeitung doubts that Europe is ready for a mass exodus from Russia:

“True, a few thousand or even tens of thousands of Russian citizens who want to escape the threat of conscription would be of little consequence, either in Moscow or in the countries of refuge. … But what if the trickle turns into a torrent? Russia’s borders to Europe are so infinitely long that there will always be a loophole.”

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Beware of provocateurs

Õhtuleht is sceptical:

“On the one hand we must focus on helping the 57,000 Ukrainian refugees who have fallen victim to the aggression. This entails high costs for Estonia. … . On the other, Russian tourists who have passed through Estonia have demonstrated an indifferent and arrogant attitude towards the war. And we can’t rule out the possibility of there being provocateurs whose task is to destabilise the situation in our country among the strong men who would come here.”

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Promote desertion

For Onet, accepting Russian deserters is a way of weakening Russia, irrespective of their political views:

“This is not a moral judgement but a purely pragmatic approach. Seen in this light, one of the best and oldest means of undermining the enemy’s combat power is to induce enemy soldiers (or future soldiers) to desert. With his mobilisation announcement Putin is offering us this opportunity on a silver platter.”

Support the true patriots

Putin’s critics should be offered many freedoms, El País urges:

“A distinction must be made between those who should be subjected to a thorough system of checks and monitoring … and those who are willing to fight against the dictatorship in the Kremlin. … The latter should be given the appropriate means to exercise their patriotism, on the assumption that being a Russian patriot today means being against Putin. … The Baltic states’ objective of guaranteeing their own security by indiscriminately banning all Russians from entering their territory is unrealistic and short-sighted. In today’s world their security can only be guaranteed at the global and European level.”

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Russia will seal its borders

Club Z sees good reason for Russian men to leave their country as quickly as possible:

“The Russians know that it’s only a matter of time before Putin closes the country’s borders to prevent men fit to bear arms from escaping. They also know that the announced criteria for mobilisation will not be adhered to. Instead of calling up men with military experience, the military will simply hunt down all the young men they see on the streets – as they’ve already done for a long time in the ‘republics’ of Luhansk and Donetsk. … Whatever happens from now on in Russia, it will be very very ugly.”

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