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.
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.”