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Russians who fled after Vladimir Putin’s mobilization order worry border will ‘shut forever’


The Russians who fled the country following a mobilization order from President Vladimir Putin for the war in Ukraine are now worried that the border they crossed may close “forever”. Hundreds of Russians scrambled at the border points and airports ever since Vladimir Putin announced a military call-up of 300,000 reservists as Moscow seeks to replenish depleted Russian forces. One-way tickets out of Russia have sold out and considering the demand, their prices, too, have shot up.

But the exodus of Russians has grown more precarious after Finland capital Helsinki announced it would close its border from midnight to Russians holding European tourism visas for the Schengen zone.

“I just made it through, I don’t know how the others will get through. It’s sad, sad,” Andrei Stepanov, a 49-year-old Russian said about Finland’s new restrictions, adding that he feels sorry for others as they are “already in a prison there”.

“Now it’s even worse,” Stepanov said.

Another Russian, Valery Klepkin, who has a lieutenant grade in Russia’s military, crossed the Finland border with a tourism visa. “We are not dangerous, I don’t understand what kind of threat we may pose,” Valery Kleplin said.


“We are running away from war, we are against this war. And by running away here, we are not going to the front,” she said. Another Russian said that Finland’s decision would make things worse for the people back home.

“We already were behind the Iron Curtain, now the curtain will be even thicker. It’s horribly unpleasant,” he lamented.

Since Vladimir Putin gave the mobilization order, the number of Russians crossing Finland’s 1,300-kilometres (800-mile) eastern border has almost doubled, averaging around 7,000 or 8,000 per day.

Viktor Zakharov, a 35-year-old scientist from Saint Petersburg, crossed over to Finland to meet some friends and then plans to head to Israel. Viktor said since Putin announced mobilization, his five friends have left Russia. He decided to cross the border fearing that he, too, would be drafted despite having no military background.

“I think now it doesn’t matter what status you have. If you are not fit today, you can be tomorrow and be in the army,” he was quoted as saying by AFP.

A fleeing Russian told CNN that he was an officer in Russia’s reserves and left his country for Belarus immediately after Vladimir Putin’s address. Why? Because “I don’t support what’s going on, so I just decided that I had to leave right away.”

“I felt like the doors are closing and if I didn’t leave immediately, I might not be able to leave later,” he said.

(With agency inputs)

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