Over 194,000 Russians flee call-up to neighboring countries

Sep 26, 2022, 7:18 PM | Updated: Sep 27, 2022, 12:34 pm
Cars queuing to cross the border into Kazakhstan at the Mariinsky border crossing, about 400 kilome...

Cars queuing to cross the border into Kazakhstan at the Mariinsky border crossing, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Chelyabinsk, Russia, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Officials say about 98,000 Russians have crossed into Kazakhstan in the week since President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of reservists to fight in Ukraine. (AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

              Cars queuing to cross the border into Kazakhstan at the Mariinsky border crossing, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Chelyabinsk, Russia, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Officials say about 98,000 Russians have crossed into Kazakhstan in the week since President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of reservists to fight in Ukraine. (AP Photo)
            
              People walk next to their cars queuing to cross the border into Kazakhstan at the Mariinsky border crossing, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Chelyabinsk, Russia, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Officials say about 98,000 Russians have crossed into Kazakhstan in the week since President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of reservists to fight in Ukraine. (AP Photo)
            
              Russians lineup to get Kazakhstan's a Personal Identification Number (INN) in a public service center in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. A day after President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization to bolster his troops in Ukraine, many Russians are leaving their homes. (Vladimir Tretyakov/NUR.KZ via AP)
            
              Russians wait and lineup to get Kazakhstan's INN in a public service center in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. A day after President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization to bolster his troops in Ukraine, many Russians are leaving their homes. (Vladimir Tretyakov/NUR.KZ via AP)
            
              Russians lineup to get Kazakhstan's a Personal Identification Number (INN) in a public service center in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. A day after President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization to bolster his troops in Ukraine, many Russians are leaving their homes. (Vladimir Tretyakov/NUR.KZ via AP)

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — It took Vsevolod four days to drive from Moscow to Russia’s southern border with Georgia. He had to abandon his car at one point and continue on foot.

On Tuesday, he finally finished his 1,800-kilometer (1,100-mile) journey and crossed the frontier to escape being called up to fight in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“At 26, I do not want to be carried home in a zinc-lined (coffin) or stain (my) hands with somebody’s blood because of the war of one person that wants to build an empire,” he told The Associated Press, asking that his last name not be used because he feared retaliation from Russia.

He was one of over 194,000 Russian nationals who have fled to neighboring Georgia, Kazakhstan and Finland — most often by car, bicycle or on foot — in the week since President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of reservists.

The mass exodus of men — alone or with their families or friends — began Sept. 21, shortly after Putin’s address to the nation, and continued all this week. Early on, they snapped up airline tickets, which spiked in price on the few airlines still flying out of Russia. But the rest had to gas up their cars and join the long lines snaking on roads toward the borders.

According to the online service Yandex Maps, the traffic jam leading to Verkhny Lars, a border crossing into Georgia from Russia’s North Ossetia region, stretched for about 15 kilometers (over 9 miles) on Tuesday. Social media showed hundreds of pedestrians lining up at the checkpoint after Russian border guards relaxed regulations and allowed people to cross on foot.

Similarly long queues were reported at some crossings into Kazakhstan.

The Interior Ministry of Georgia said over 53,000 Russians have entered the country since last week, while Interior Ministry officials in Kazakhstan said 98,000 crossed into that nation. The Finnish Border Guard agency said over 43,000 arrived in the same period. Media reports also said another 3,000 Russians entered Mongolia, which also shares a border with the country.

Russian authorities sought to stem the flow, barring some men from leaving and citing mobilization laws. The practice did not seem widespread, but rumors persisted that Moscow may soon shut the borders to all men of fighting age.

Police in North Ossetia said a makeshift enlistment office will be set up at the Verkhny Lars crossing, and local officials confirmed to the state news agency Tass that Russian men are being served call-up summonses at crossings into Georgia.

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has said that only about 300,000 men with prior combat or other military service would be mustered, but reports have emerged from various Russian regions that recruiters were rounding up men outside that description. That fueled fears of a much broader call-up, sending droves of men of all ages and backgrounds to airports and borders.

“There’s a risk that they will announce a full mobilization,” according to a resident of St. Petersburg who made it to Kazakhstan on Tuesday. The man, who refused to give his name because he feared for his safety, told AP he spent three days driving from his home to Uralsk in northwestern Kazakhstan near the border.

He said Putin’s mobilization remarks differed from what his decree said, leaving room for a broader interpretation, adding: “People worry that sooner or later, a full mobilization will be announced, and no one will be able to cross the borders.”

Kazakhstan and Georgia, both part of the former Soviet Union and both offering visa-free entry by Russian nationals, seemed to be the most popular destinations for those traveling by land to flee the call-up. Finland and Norway require visas.

Georgia, whose support for Ukraine is visible by the yellow and blue flags adorning buildings as well as graffiti against Putin and Russia, has been somewhat apprehensive about the influx of Russians, especially after the country fought a brief war with Moscow in 2008.

Opposition politicians have demanded the government take drastic actions against the arriving Russians, from introducing visas to banning them completely. No such action has been taken yet.

Kazakhstan seems more welcoming. Since the beginning of the war, the Central Asian nation of 19 million has taken a course increasingly independent from its ally, Moscow, especially on the war in Ukraine.

In announcing the number of Russians crossing the border, Kazakhstan Interior Minister Marat Akhmetzhanov said authorities won’t send home those avoiding the call-up unless they are on an international wanted list for criminal charges.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev even ordered his government to help the Russians entering his country “because of the current hopeless situation.”

“We must take care of them and ensure their safety. It is a political and a humanitarian issue. I tasked the government to take the necessary measures,” he said, adding that Kazakhstan will hold talks with Russia on the issue.

In Uralsk, volunteers helped those entering the city of 236,000. Some of them told AP that they were serving free hot meals and helping the arrivals to find accommodations, which were quickly filling up. Those who can’t find apartments or hotel rooms could spend the night in gyms, one volunteer said.

Dilara Mukhambetova, director of the Cinema Park theater, even said arriving Russians could sleep in her facility after she drove around the city and saw a lot of people who looked lost.

“We freed up one auditorium, organized tea, and volunteers brought hot meals,” Mukhambetova was quoted by local media as saying. “We filled four auditoriums, (accommodating) about 200 people in total.”

Associated Press journalist Sophiko Megrelidze in Tbilisi, Georgia, contributed.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Nancy Faeser, Federal Minister of the Interior and Home Affairs talks to members of the press in Em...
Associated Press

German government seeks to ease rules for naturalization

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s socially liberal government is moving ahead with plans to ease the rules for obtaining citizenship in the European Union’s most populous country, a drive that is being assailed by the conservative opposition. Chancellor OIaf Scholz said in a video message Saturday that Germany has long since become “the country of hope” […]
1 day ago
Lilia Kristenko, 38, cries as city responders collect the dead body of her mother Natalia Kristenko...
Associated Press

Ukraine works to restore water, power after Russian strikes

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian authorities endeavored Saturday to restore electricity and water services after recent pummeling by Russian military strikes that vastly damaged infrastructure, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying millions have seen their power restored since blackouts swept the war-battered country days earlier. Skirmishes continued in the east and residents from the southern city […]
1 day ago
FILE - Palestinian soccer fans wave Qatari and Palestinian flags as they watch a live broadcast of ...
Associated Press

Flashes of Arab unity at World Cup after years of discontent

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — For a brief moment after Saudi Arabia’s Salem Aldawsari fired a ball from just inside the penalty box into the back of the net to seal a World Cup win against Argentina, Arabs across the divided Middle East found something to celebrate. Such Arab unity is hard to come by and […]
1 day ago
FILE - MGM Grand Macau casino resort is closed in Macao on July 11, 2022. Macao has tentatively ren...
Associated Press

Macao awards casino licenses to MGM, Sands, Wynn, 3 others

BEIJING (AP) — Macao has tentatively renewed the casino licenses of MGM Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and three Chinese rivals after they promised to help diversify its economy by investing in non-gambling attractions, the government said Saturday. The announcement is positive news for owners who have invested billions of dollars to build the […]
1 day ago
FILE - Local authorities inaugurate the Christmas lighting in the streets of Vigo, Spain, Nov. 19, ...
Associated Press

Sober or bright? Europe faces holidays during energy crunch

VERONA, Italy (AP) — Early season merrymakers sipping mulled wine and shopping for holiday decorations packed the Verona Christmas market for its inaugural weekend. But beyond the wooden market stalls, the Italian city still has not decked out its granite-clad pedestrian streets with twinkling holiday lights as officials debate how bright to make the season […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Today in History: November 26, the NHL is founded

Today in History Today is Saturday, Nov. 26, the 330th day of 2022. There are 35 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Nov. 26, 1950, China entered the Korean War, launching a counteroffensive against soldiers from the United Nations, the U.S. and South Korea. On this date: In 1825, the first […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Over 194,000 Russians flee call-up to neighboring countries