In a national address last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin outlined new wartime measures to to bring 300,000 civilians in military service as the Russian invasion of Ukraine drags on. Although the authorities Express that only Russians with military service and less than three children would be raised to fight, this does not seem to be true in practice. Thousands of Russians would have already received draft articles and travel to training sites.
Others, unwilling to wage the Kremlin war and fearful the possibility of a larger national draft, decided to flee. Few countries still operate flights with Russia, but routes to these destinations are fast exhausted following Putin’s announcement. Google searches “how to leave Russia” leaps.
Rather than open the door to civilians fleeing forced military service, many countries neighboring Russia are turning them back. Urmas Reinsalu, Estonian Foreign Minister said that enlistment in the army “does not constitute sufficient grounds for obtaining asylum in another country”.* Edgars Rinkevics, Latvian Foreign Minister cited “security reasons” when he announced that Latvia “would not issue humanitarian or other visas to Russian citizens who avoid mobilization”. Poland and the Baltic States say they will not offer asylum to reluctant Russian conscripts.
But this approach is flawed for a host of reasons, and any nation opposed to Putin’s brutality would do well to welcome Russians who shun it.
On the one hand, as Volokh conspiracy blogger and professor at George Mason University Ilya Somin pointed outPutin’s “mobilization policy was obviously provoked by the labor shortage and accumulating setbacks on the battlefield. “Civilians who might otherwise have had escape options could instead be forced to replenish forces fighting in Ukraine. Each Russian asylum denial represents an extra pair of boots that Putin could deploy on the front lines. .
There is also the problem of assigning collective responsibility. Many foreign leaders who support closing borders to Russian civilians castigate them for not doing more to stop the sins of their government. But thousands of Russians came out to protest the brutal invasion of Ukraine, only to come up against Putin’s brutality themselves. Demonstrators detained after protesting against the new mobilization order, he faces up to 15 years in prison. There is clearly no unanimous national support for the war, and trapping protesters inside Russia’s borders alongside the real perpetrators of the conflict is unfair (not to mention a policy that risks alienating Western civilians).
Several men who fled Russia Told NPR that people who protest against war and mobilization end up being arrested, beaten and then conscripted. Dissidents allegedly started hurting others – Russian conscript shot a military officer today in apparent protest at the mobilization order – and even themselves as they try to avoid military service. Google searches “how to break an arm at home” leaps in Russia after Putin delivered his mobilization speech. For lack of an emergency exit, it is the despair that some Russian conscripts feel today.
Unlike much of the European Union, Germany is trace a cautious path when it comes to Russians fleeing forced military service. German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann tweeted, “Many Russians are leaving their homeland – anyone who hates Putin’s way and loves liberal democracy is welcome in Germany.” German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser did the same Noted that “deserters threatened with serious repression can, as a rule, obtain international protection in Germany”.
This is a crucial guarantee for many Russians, like Putin last week sign laws that will punish anyone who deserts, surrenders or resists service with up to 10 years. “Russians trying to flee Putin’s war need an opportunity to get out, especially since it’s dangerous to use their voices in their home country,” writing Raisonis Eric Boehm. “Let the Russians vote with their feet.”
Putin’s war is brutal and unjustified. But this should not lead nations to punish Russian civilians. On the contrary, offering sanctuary to those fleeing forced military service would both help protect dissidents and deprive Putin of essential manpower as his invasion falters. “If you are against the war”, like a civilian Told NPR after fleeing Russia, “best thing to do is try to get out of there.”
*CORRECTION: Citation and attribution have been corrected.