Sep 25, 2022 - World

Russia's neighbors move to close borders to Russians fleeing conscription

Cars coming from Russia wait in long lines

Cars in Russia wait in long lines at the border checkpoint with Finland on Sept. 23. Photo: Sasu Makinen/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images

A number of Russia's neighboring countries moved to restrict entry for Russians this week as thousands of Russian men attempted to flee military conscription.

Driving the news: Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "partial mobilization" of an estimated 300,000 Russian citizens on Wednesday amid a string of stinging Russian losses in Ukraine, following a successful and rapid counteroffensive launched by Ukrainian forces this month.

  • The specter of conscription could potentially bring the war home to millions of Russians in a way nothing else has, Axios' Dave Lawler writes.

The latest: Finland on Friday announced that it intends to bar entry for Russian tourists amid an influx of Russians attempting to cross the border into Finland.

  • "Russia’s mobilization and increasing volume of tourists transiting via Finland are causing serious harm to Finland’s international position and relations," Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said in a statement Saturday.
  • Haavisto added that the "government will issue a resolution to significantly restrict the entry and issuing visas to Russian citizens."

The big picture: The announcement prompted a rush of Russians attempting to flee the draft, resulting in long queues at Russia's various borders.

  • Prior to the announcement, on Monday the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania closed their borders to most Russians due to domestic support for the war within Russia, AP reported.
  • The move comes after an announcement this month that they intended to follow through on such a move with some exceptions, such as for humanitarian reasons.
  • Lithuanian and Estonian officials said this week that seeking to avoid conscription would not be sufficient grounds to gain asylum in their countries, per the Guardian.
  • The sentiment was shared by Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, who tweeted Thursday that "many of Russians who now flee Russia because of mobilization were fine with killing Ukrainians, they did not protest then, it is not right to consider them as conscious objectors. There are considerable security risks admitting them and plenty of countries outside EU to go."
  • Poland on Monday likewise signed restrictions on most Russian travelers that will go into effect on Monday, per AP.

Worth noting: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have urged Western nations more than once to ban all Russian travelers.

  • EU members have been split over the proposal and have struggled to come up with a unified policy, with members such as Germany and France firmly opposed to the proposal.
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