Escape while you can. Thousands of Russians are trying to flee their country for fear of being taken to the front. According to the Ministry of Defence, only 300,000 men who are no more than 55 years old and have already served are to be officially called up. However, Russian media report cases in which older men and men without army experience have also received a draft notice.

The government-critical “Novaya Gazeta Europa” even claims to have found out that the planned number of conscriptions is significantly higher: up to one million. Since then the rumor mill has been boiling. The Kremlin denies. People are unsettled.

“I’m not really afraid. If they want, they’ll get anyone anyway,” the 28-year-old warehouse worker from Cherepovets, Mikhail Bayankin, told DW resignedly. Nevertheless, he will never pick up a weapon because the goals of the so-called military special operation are not clear to him: “They talk about some kind of duty. What kind of duty? If our country had been attacked, then yes, but here we are attacking a neighboring country ourselves.”

Many men in Russia think like Mikhail. Some get in the car or plane and leave. Those who do not have a visa travel to Georgia, Kazakhstan or Mongolia. Eyewitnesses on social media report kilometers of queues at the border crossings to these countries. If you have money, you fly to the United Arab Emirates or Turkey. Serbia and Finland are also popular departure destinations.

A 34-year-old engineer from Krasnodar, who prefers not to be named, has just arrived in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. He was already a contract soldier and fits exactly the criteria of the so-called partial mobilization.

In an interview with Deutsche Welle, he admits that he has wanted to leave Russia for a long time. The news about the partial mobilization only strengthened his wish: “I didn’t leave my country forever. I love Russia and will definitely come back sometime.”

The 28-year-old Internet retailer Dennis from Rostov-on-Don actually never wanted to leave Russia either. But as early as February 24, when war broke out, he realized that nothing was right anymore, he confesses to DW: “We all understood that the whole thing was not good, despite our belief in everything good right up to the end.”

Until two days ago, 43-year-old Valeri Klepkin lived in northern Russia. The graduated engineer served in the troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. When the war began, Valeri told DW, he received several inquiries from the military headquarters, but he didn’t go: “I’m a first-degree reserve officer. I didn’t want to wait long to be faced with a choice: jail time or a murderer.”

When news of the mobilization came, Valeri packed his bag and immediately went to Finland, where he has many friends. The young man learned Finnish earlier, his grandfather lived there. Valeri is happy that the emigration to Finland worked out.

The escape route to the Baltic States, on the other hand, is closed. Shortly after the announcement of partial mobilization in Russia, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs refused entry to Russian war-resisters and explained his stance as a threat to national security. The Estonian head of government, Kaja Kallas, also does not want to let in any fleeing Russians.

She repeatedly called on the Russian opposition to ensure regime change in their own country. Lithuania also doesn’t want to hear anything about automatic asylum for Russian war-resisters. The government in the Czech Republic takes the same negative stance. The Finnish government is considering stopping transit for Russian citizens altogether.

The Russian opposition politician Lev Schlossberg criticizes such decisions. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, he accuses the governments of the Eastern European countries of giving in to pressure from right-wing populist forces and building a new Iron Curtain: “Sooner or later, however, we will all live in peace again. And the bigger the gap between us gets now, the harder it will be for everyone to get back together.”

But the way there is long, believes 28-year-old Mikhail Bayankin and does not know if he will ever see this day of peace. The warehouse worker from Cherepovets complains that human life is worthless to his government: “They tell us, go to the front. They don’t care if we ever come back. We’re just cannon fodder for them.”

Valeri Klepkin does not believe in a happy future in Russia either, at least not in the foreseeable future: “When the civil war broke out in Russia more than a hundred years ago, my compatriots at the time could not have imagined that the Soviet totalitarian regime would exist for seventy years. Putin won’t be in power for that long, but he will be for a few decades.”

Author: Juri Rescheto (Riga)

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The original of this post “We’re just cannon fodder” comes from Deutsche Welle.