Russian men flee to Georgia to avoid Putin’s call-up

Russian men are fleeing into neighboring Georgia to avoid conscription to the army after President Vladimir Putin ordered a “partial mobilization” of 300,000 reservists.

Russian men, some pushing their bicycles, walk along a road after passing through customs at the Georgia-Russia border checkpoint of Verkhnii Lars, Georgia, 27 September 2022.

Russian men, some pushing their bicycles, walk along a road after passing through customs at the Georgia-Russia border checkpoint of Verkhnii Lars, Georgia, 27 September 2022.Photo: EPA/ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE

Georgia has accepted dozens of thousands of Russians, as Putin last week announced the call-up to reinforce the Russian military in Ukraine.

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, the Georgian capital Tbilisi has accepted 40,000 Russians, according to government statistics, the Reuters news agency reported.

According to Reuters, on Sunday the estimated wait to enter Georgia hit 48 hours, with more than 3,000 vehicles queuing to cross the border.

“People abandon their cars in front of the border, some have no money, are desperate, and come with just one backpack,” Georgian journalist Aleksandre Keszelashvili told Polish state news agency PAP.

Reuters reported that scenarios such as those at the Russia-Georgia crossing have also taken place at borders with Kazakhstan, Finland, and Mongolia.

While Georgia said more than 53,000 Russians have entered the country since last week, Kazakhstan officials said 98,000 people crossed into their country. According to the Finnish Border Guard, more than 43,000 have arrived since last week.

On the Tbilisi-controlled part of the Georgian-Russian frontier, one border crossing operates. “It is very crowded. The road goes from North Ossetia [in Russia] to the Kazbegi region,” Keszelashvili said. „It’s a very mountainous area, the road is narrow, and the area is not populated.”

He added: “The crossing is in a very narrow valley, so you can’t see what’s happening on the Russian side. People I spoke to said they had difficulties during Russian border controls. They are being asked a lot of questions … They also said they saw military vehicles.”

Keszelashvili added that some of those fleeing Russia “have no food, no water, abandon their cars and reach the border on foot.”

But some Georgians do not appreciate the recent influx, pointing out that no mass protests against the war took place in Russia before the mobilization was announced.

On Wednesday, a small demonstration was held at the border crossing under the slogan: “Russians, you are not welcome here. Go home.”

“Many residents are not comfortable with [the influx] because parts of Georgia are occupied by Russia,” Keszelashvili told PAP, referring to the breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.

Immediately after the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states and established diplomatic relations, controlled and sponsored by Moscow since the first half of the 1990s. At the same time, official Russian-Georgian relations were severed. The government in Tbilisi, like the vast majority of countries around the world, still considers Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be integral parts of Georgia.


Source: PAP, Reuters

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