In the absence of planes, thousands of Russians have hit the road to leave their country at the risk of being mobilized in the invasion of Ukraine. With the passage to the European Union practically closed, their only viable land alternatives are Georgia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia, whose borders have been overwhelmed by traffic jams tens of kilometers long and have begun to be partially closed by chaos.
In the videos broadcast by the drivers, a huge caravan remains trapped between the Verjni Lars gorges, the pass between the Russian region of North Ossetia and Georgia. Many flee the call of war, something that is incomprehensible to the president’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov. “One can somehow understand the hysteria, extremely emotional, in the first hours of the announcement […]; but since yesterday all the information and help lines have been activated,” the Kremlin representative lamented this Friday.
However, fear has not been the flower of a day. “This is the chat where people tell whether or not they have managed to cross the border. Only on the night of the mobilization there were 12,000 messages, ”said Sofia, who left for the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, at the beginning of the war, in a telephone conversation. “For now I live dry, I’m afraid they’ll send a recruitment notice to my brother,” she says when asked how her life has changed in recent months.
In that Telegram channel you can read all kinds of stories. A Russian says that taxi drivers help cross the border on a gravel road for about 30,000 rubles, more than 500 euros at current exchange rates. Others celebrate having managed to escape the call from the Ministry of Defense. “They let us through! No questions asked, I have a 48-year-old husband and a 25-year-old son, wrote Ekaterina this morning, doubly relieved.
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The passage through that section is complicated at times. The journalist Nikolai Lévshits has a popular channel on Georgia, and notes that the bottleneck is growing. “The traffic jam at the Verjni Lars checkpoint has deteriorated significantly. The traffic jam has grown to 15 kilometers and the North Ossetian Ministry of Internal Affairs has blocked access roads from Vladikavkaz,” he said on Friday.
Despite the mobilization decree, at the moment there do not seem to be any problems with leaving the country. “99.9% of people can cross after checking on both sides of the border,” adds Lévshits.
The scene was repeated at other points on the Russian border with Asia, including the Kiajta crossing with Mongolia. A local news channel of the same name showed a huge queue of cars on the first day of mobilization and highlighted that “there is a great stir.” That crossing borders the Russian Republic of Buryatia, which took a certain role in the first hours of mobilization because dozens of parents of large families without previous military experience were called up. According to local authorities, more than 70 men were later sent home after claiming that they had more than four children and did not meet the alleged criteria set out by President Vladimir Putin for enlistment.
The other natural exit for the Russians is Finland after the total veto of the Baltic countries against the entry of Russians, even those with a Schengen visa. According to the Finnish border control, 4,824 vehicles passed through customs on Thursday from the Russian region of Leningrad compared to about 3,000 in recent days.
“My mother had a stamp of refusal of entry in her passport with the letter I, which represents a threat to the national security of Lithuania and the European Union,” Vera, from Moscow, reported to this newspaper. “What is a pensioner from Moscow going to be a threat?” She added with great disappointment at the European blockade.
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