RUSSIA: Russia is all set to establish an army enlisting centre on the border with Georgia, where massive queues have formed as desperate Russian men attempt to flee the country to avoid forced military conscription to fight in the Ukraine war.
Authorities report officers at the Verkhniy Lars crossing will be given the command to serve summons to “citizens of the mobilisation age”.
Recent satellite images show long queues stretching for miles from Russia.
Most of the people who have successfully reached the border appeared sleep-deprived, exhausted, and hungry but glad and relieved to have reached safety, Rayhan Demytrie says. People have been arriving in groups of walkers, dragging their suitcases behind them. Others arrived in cars or on bikes.
A BBC correspondent was on the ground and witnessed the entire scene, reporting some of the personal stories shared by those who had arrived ragged, battered, and weary—but hopeful, relieved, and grateful. One man, Ilya, showed a polaroid of his baby daughter, Arisha. He said he wanted to see her grow up and not die in a meaningless war for someone else’s gain.
Dima and Zhenya, two brothers in their early 20s, said they had travelled for days from Bashkiria—Russia’s largest republic, about 1,500km (932 miles) east of the capital Moscow.
Dima asked for a hotspot to call his mother. On the other end of the line, his mother heaved a sigh of relief over his safe transit to Georgia.
Another young man from Moscow said he fled his country because of the man in the Kremlin, his leader and president, Vladimir Putin.
Everyone says the same thing: they disagree with the war-but the extent of repression in Russia makes them powerless, the BBC correspondent says.
The interior ministry of Russia’s North Ossetia republic, where the Verkhniy Lars crossing is, said 60 of its personnel had already been deployed there, describing the situation as “extremely tense”.
It added that the enlisting hub would be launched “in the near future”.
Long queues have also been reported at Russia’s border crossings with Mongolia and Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev vowed on Tuesday to protect the safety and welfare of Russians fleeing a “hopeless situation”, and assured that no desperate Russian seeking safety and protection would go unnoticed.
The Russian defence ministry on Tuesday announced that it would not seek the extradition of Russian nationals travelling abroad to avoid being drafted into the war.
As part of the partial mobilisation declared on September 21, President Putin authorised the conscription of nearly 300,000 men into the Russian army to reinforce troops at the battlefront, which has seen many Russian losses this past week.
Although Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed that only the designated amount would be called in, rumours and reports in opposition Russian media suggest that the enlistment numbers could go up to a million, including those with limited to no prior military experience or those who are old or even disabled.
A number of military experts in the West and Ukraine say Mr. Putin’s decision to call up reservists shows that Russian troops are failing badly on the battlefield in Ukraine-more than seven months after Moscow launched its “special military operation”.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin could assess the damage it had created by declaring the forced military call-up, later admitting on Monday that mistakes were being made in its mobilisation drive. “There are cases when the decree is violated,” Mr. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that “all the errors will be corrected”.
Since the mobilisation announcement, more than 2,000 people have been detained at protests across Russia.
“We are deeply disturbed by the large number of people who have reportedly been arrested,” UN rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said on Tuesday, as the world stage witnessed the rebellion of young masses against Russia, including those over 1,500 who were detained by police over non-cooperation.
In one of the most shocking and widely-discussed incidents, a man shot and critically injured an army recruitment officer in the Siberian city of Ust-Ilimsk on Monday.