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Germany may take in Russians fleeing conscription

September 22, 2022

German ministers have indicated that people fleeing Russia could apply for asylum in Germany after President Vladimir Putin ordered what he called a "partial military mobilization."

Army conscripts are seen at a regional assembly station in June before departing for service with the Russian Armed Forces
Russians fleeing forced military service could have grounds to seek asylum in the EUImage: Donat Sorokin/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

Several German government ministers have indicated that under specific conditions, Germany is ready to take in Russians fleeing the "partial military mobilization" ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Deserters threatened with serious repression can, as a rule, obtain international protection in Germany," Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in an interview with the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

"Anyone who courageously opposes Putin's regime and thereby falls into great danger, can file for asylum on grounds of political persecution," she said.

German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann tweeted using the hashtag "partial mobilization" that "apparently, many Russians are leaving their homeland — anyone who hates Putin's path and loves liberal democracy is welcome in Germany."

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock praised Russian anti-war protesters and added that no one inside the country can continue turning a blind eye to what's happening in Ukraine because "every Russian is now going to be at risk of being drafted into this war."

German Bundestag parliamentarian Robin Wagener of the Greens told DW that it has always been a "cause of the West to open borders to those fleeing from regimes," like those seen in the former Soviet Union.

"When I hear [Ukrainian] President Zelenskyy saying saying directly to Russian young men, 'protest against the regime, fight it or flee.' Then there needs to be a place to flee to," he said.

Wagener added that under European law, persons fleeing from military service, when this military service is also linked to war crimes, have the right to asylum.

"We should keep to that and have our arms open for those fleeing," he said.


Russia cracks down on protests against mobilization

Russia denies exodus of young men

On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov downplayed reports of draft-age men from Russia fleeing en masse after Putin's announcement. 

"The information about the hype at airports and so on is very much exaggerated. ... There is a lot of fake information about this. We need to be very careful about this so as not to become a victim of false information on this matter," he said.

Since Putin declared a "partial mobilization" of reservists, flights for the coming days from Russia to visa-free countries including Armenia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Serbia have sold out entirely. Lengthy lines were reported at Russia's borders with Georgia, Finland, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

ProAsyl calls for admission of deserters

The German-based human rights organization Pro Asyl also called for countries to grant asylum to deserters and conscientious objectors from Russia and Belarus.

"According to EU law, those who escape a war that violates international law have a right to asylum and protection. In this sense, Germany and Europe must now unbureaucratically organize the admission of the people who vote with their feet against the Russian war of aggression," the head of the European department of Pro Asyl, Karl Kopp, told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

Since February 24, Germany has taken in around 1 million Ukrainians fleeing Russia's invasion, but also welcomed Russian dissidents. According to Faeser, 438 Russian dissidents, including journalists, have also benefited from an accelerated process to obtain protection in Germany.

However, she pointed out that political asylum is not automatically granted; applicants are first subjected to security checks.

The European Commission also said people fleeing partial mobilization in Russia have the right to claim asylum in the European Union. "This is an unprecedented situation," Anita Hipper, an EU spokesperson responsible for migration said.

According to Hipper, the applications would need to be considered on a case-by-case basis. She added that work was ongoing with EU member states to find a joint approach.

On Wednesday, officials from the EU's Baltic member states said they will not offer refuge to any Russians fleeing Moscow's partial mobilization.

Earlier this week, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania closed their borders to most Russian citizens in response to the wide domestic support in Russia for the war in Ukraine.

dh/wmr (AFP, dpa)

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