Recruitment offices are said to have appeared on the Russian border to intercept fleeing conscripts
On Wednesday, long lines of Russians trying to evade the call to fight in Ukraine continued to clog highways out of the country, and Moscow reportedly set up recruitment offices at borders to intercept some of them.
North Ossetia, a Russian region bordering Georgia, declared a state of « high alert » and said food, water, warming stations and other aid should be brought in to those who have spent days in the queues. Volunteers from the Georgian side of the border also brought water, blankets and other assistance.
But North Ossetia has also banned many private cars from entering its territory and set up a temporary office at the Verkhy Lars border crossing, Russian news agencies said. Some media published photos at the crossing showing a black van with the inscription « military enlistment office ».
Another such checkpoint has been set up along the Finnish border, according to independent Russian media Meduza.
Tens of thousands of Russian men have fled this week since President Vladimir Putin announced a mobilization to bolster Moscow’s beleaguered forces in Ukraine.
Although Putin said the appeal was « partial », aiming to bring in around 300,000 men with previous military service, many Russians fear it is much broader and more arbitrary than that. There are numerous reports of men without military training and of all ages receiving summonses.
Aleksandr Kamisentsev, who moved from his home in Saratov to Georgia, described the scene on the Russian side of the border.
« It’s very scary – tears, screams, a lot of people. You get the feeling that the government doesn’t know how to organize it. It looks like they want to close the border, but at the same time they are afraid protests may follow, and they let people go,” he told The Associated Press.
He said he decided at the last moment to leave « because I’m not going to kill my Ukrainian brothers or go to prison ».
Demonstration in Georgia
Protesters carrying Georgian and Ukrainian flags and signs like « Russia kills » greeted Russians at the border on Wednesday. Giga Lemonjava of the Droa political party, which organized the protest, said the new arrivals threaten Georgia’s security and economy.
One protester, Helen Khoshtaria, tweeted: « We held a protest at the border today to let new Russians know what we think of their ‘Russian world’. »
The Russians crossed by car, bicycle, scooter and on foot.
There are also long queues at the border with Kazakhstan, another of 14 countries that share a border with Russia, which welcomed more than 98,000 Russians last week.