Tallinn, Estonia (AP) — Despite ongoing anxiety over a partial mobilization that the Kremlin launched less than two weeks ago to intensify fighting in Ukraine, Russians who have entered the neighboring country in recent days have seen continued anxiety, according to local authorities. decreased.
The mass exodus of Russian men — alone or with family or friends — began on September 21, shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial call-up to reservists. In Russia, the vast majority of men under the age of 65 are registered as reservists, so flights to foreign destinations sell out within hours. Shortly thereafter, long lines of cars formed on the road to the Russian border.
As of Tuesday, more than 194,000 Russians had entered Kazakhstan, Georgia and Finland. It is not possible to determine how many of them fled the conscripts and how many traveled for other reasons, but the numbers were much higher than before the conscription.
By the end of the week, the influx had dwindled, according to officials from the three countries. It is unclear whether this has to do with the makeshift recruitment centers hastily set up by Russian authorities along the land border, or the mobilization law’s policy of keeping men away from the border.
Finland banned Russians on tourist visas from entering the country on Friday, when only 1,688 Russians were able to enter the Nordic country by land, compared with 5,262 on Thursday and more than 8,000 a day last weekend, according to Finnish Border Guard figures. .
Georgian arrivals into Russia also declined: only 6,109 from Thursday to Friday, compared with 9,642 from Wednesday to Thursday, according to the Georgian Interior Ministry.
The reduction in the flow of Russians to Georgia, two of the most popular destinations for land-bound travellers, may also be related to the restrictions. On Wednesday, officials in Russia’s southern region of North Ossetia, home to the only land border crossing checkpoint to Georgia, restricted the entry of cars from other regions to stem the outflow.
But officials in Kazakhstan have also noticed a drop in numbers, although no official limits have been imposed on either side of its border with Russia.
Kazakh Interior Minister Marat Ahmazanov noted on Saturday that the number of Russians entering the country “continues to decline”: only 22,500 entered on Thursday, and even fewer – 14,100 – on Friday. It was not immediately clear what caused the numbers to drop.
The Kremlin had said it planned to call in about 300,000 people, but Russian media reported the number could be as high as 1.2 million, a claim Russian officials have denied.
The Russian Defense Ministry has pledged to recruit only those with combat or service experience, but according to multiple media reports and human rights advocates, those who do not meet the criteria have also been rounded up, including protesters.
The official mobilization decree, signed by Putin, was succinct and vague, fueling concerns about the broader draft.
In an apparent attempt to reassure the population, Putin told the Russian Security Council on Thursday that some mistakes had been made in the mobilization process and said Russian men who had been wrongly drafted into the army should be sent home.
Other efforts to quell national panic include promising mobilizers high wages and social benefits.
Russian authorities have also started turning some men away, citing a mobilization law that bars certain categories of men from leaving the country. They also set up several recruiting offices at border checkpoints, threatening to provide recruiting documents to those seeking to leave.
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