(With information from AFP / RFI)
Some 66,000 Russians arrived in the European Union last week, a figure up 30 percent from the previous week, the Frontex agency in charge of securing the bloc’s borders said Tuesday (27). Most of them traveled from Russia to Finland and Estonia. Thousands more Russians have sought Georgia and Kazakhstan, two countries that border Russia.
The exodus of Russians began last Wednesday (27), after President Vladimir Putin announced in a televised speech the partial mobilization of thousands of reservists to serve in Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. Putin continues to deny that he has started a war against Kiev by invading the country last February.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu mentioned a target of recruiting 300,000 men, preferably those who have already served in the army. But the announcement was poorly received among young people and families, who seek to leave Russia before the borders close.
In the last four days alone, in the period September 19-25, 30,000 Russians arrived in Finland, Frontex says. The agency believes that illegal crossings, that is, of people without visas to travel in the European Union, could increase if Moscow decides to close the borders to potential recruits.
Kazakh President Says He Will Give Protection to Russians
Georgia and Kazakhstan, two countries that border Russia, on Tuesday confirmed a sharp increase in Russian arrivals in one week. Georgia’s entry figures have nearly doubled to 10,000 people a day. “There were 11,200 on Sunday (25) and just under 10,000 on Monday (26), up from 5,000 to 6,000 before Putin’s announcement on September 21,” Georgian Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri said.
Authorities in North Ossetia, a Russian region bordering Georgia, admitted that the situation in the area is “tense,” especially at the Verkhni Lars checkpoint. Local authorities have announced the creation of a military mobilization post on the border in order to recruit reservists trying to leave the country.
In Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia, authorities reported that 98,000 Russian citizens have arrived in the country since September 21, but did not release figures for comparison with the previous week.
Kazakh President Kasim Jomart Tokayev said Tuesday that the country will protect Russians fleeing to its territory to escape military conscription.
“In recent days, many people came to our country from Russia. Most of them were forced to leave by a dead-end situation,” the president said, according to Russian news agencies. “We must take care of them, ensure their safety,” added this Moscow ally who distanced himself from the Kremlin after the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
Annexation referendums: West will ‘never’ recognize, says Blinken
On Tuesday, the four days of annexation referendums for four Ukrainian regions ended – Donetsk and Lugansk, self-proclaimed, pro-Moscow republics, and two other areas occupied by Russian troops in the south, Kherson and Zaporijia. According to a Russian state news agency, 96% of the votes would support the annexation of the territories. Local officials promise to release the results quickly.
The head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, assured that the United States and its allies “will never recognize” Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory. “We and many other countries have made it clear. We will not recognize, we will never recognize the annexation of Ukrainian territory by Russia,” Blinken told the press, while Russia and the authorities of the regions it occupies in Ukraine said that the “yes ” won in all consultations.
Blinken reiterated President Joe Biden’s threat that the United States “will quickly impose additional and severe costs on Russia” for going ahead with the referenda. “It is important to remember what is happening here. Russia invaded Ukraine, took the territory and carried out a diabolical scheme in part of the taken territory, from which it displaced the local population,” he said.
Some people are targeted for deportation and others “just disappear,” the secretary of state added. “Then they bring in Russians, install puppet governments, hold the referendum and manipulate, in any case, the result and then claim that the territory belongs to Russia,” he said.