As Russians flee to avoid mobilization, EU is pushed to define common position

Germany’s Interior Minister has already said that escaping reservists will be allowed to file for asylum in that country on grounds of political persecution

Tráfico en la frontera entre Rusia y Finlandia
Cars coming from Russia wait in long lines at the border checkpoint between Russia and Finland near Vaalimaa on Thursday.OLIVIER MORIN (AFP)

A day after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of reservists to reinforce the military operation in Ukraine, many Russian citizens have begun to flee: airline tickets to many destinations are sold out or prohibitively expensive, while land traffic to Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia has intensified.

The European Commission on Thursday acknowledged that it needs a common position on Russian citizens fleeing the country to avoid mobilization. “We as the European Union, in principle we stand in solidarity with the Russian citizens who have the courage and bravery to show their opposition to what the regime is doing, especially when it comes to this illegal war in Ukraine,” said Commission spokesperson Peter Stano on Thursday.

“Given this unprecedented situation, the member states will be looking at these on a case-by-case basis,” said another unnamed spokesperson quoted by Reuters.

Espectacular proguerra en Rusia
People at a tram stop in front of a board displaying a portrait of a Russian soldier in Saint Petersburg on Wednesday.ANTON VAGANOV (REUTERS)

Germany has already announced that it will welcome Russian reservists who escape. “Anyone who courageously opposes Putin’s regime and thereby falls into great danger, can file for asylum on grounds of political persecution,” said Interior Minister Nancy Faeser in an interview with the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

A day earlier Finland, where long lines of Russian cars were lining up at the border, said it was is preparing a national solution to “limit or completely prevent” tourism from Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

Thousands of Russians have already been ordered to begin military training, likely to later be sent to the front lines in Ukraine. In Siberia, Russian media reported busloads of men leaving for training camps, with similar images playing out in other parts of the country. The Kremlin, however, maintains that reports of Russian citizens fleeing the country are “greatly exaggerated.”

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