War in Ukraine – Russian draft dodgers: what’s next?


Less than two weeks have passed since EU countries suspended the visa facilitation agreement with Russia. Russians wishing to stay in the Union for up to 90 days in a 180-day period must now submit additional documents, expect longer processing times and stricter treatment for multiple-entry visas, and pay an application fee of 80 euros instead of 35 euros. This means that the privileged access to the EU has been abolished. The Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – and Poland are taking another step. They are per se turning away Russian citizens at their border points. In the Union, sanctions are applied not only to Russia’s political leadership, oligarchs and companies. Direct communication with Russian citizens has also become stricter.

But now in Europe the discussion is not about tightening, but about softening. Because even for those Russians who wanted to turn a blind eye to the war in Ukraine, it was clear from the mobilization of President Vladimir Putin that much more than a “special military operation” was going on. Hundreds of thousands of men must stand up and take up arms. One man told the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg: “Now there is a choice: go to war and kill innocent people or go to jail.” Therefore, he will leave Russia. How should EU countries deal with those Russians who do not want to go to war?

The EU Commission has not yet decided. The spokeswoman said that the victims have the right to request asylum in the Union. Security aspects must also be taken into account – this is an allusion to the fear that Russian agents disguised as deserters could be smuggled into the EU. The Commission is working with EU countries on a common approach. German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit expects a “promising solution” to be presented within weeks.

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In the EU’s most important country, the small government parties FDP and the Greens are already pursuing a generous reception policy: “Apparently many Russians are leaving their homeland: all who hate Putin’s way and love liberal democracy are very welcome in Germany,” he tweeted. liberal justice minister Marco Buschmann. The chancellor’s party, the SPD, is more cautious. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser only promised “desert residents at risk of severe repression” that they would “generally receive international protection in Germany” – a wording that leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

While Germany’s liberals and greens hope that conscientious objectors will further weaken Russia, the Czech Republic, the president of the EU Council, has the exact opposite view. According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jan Lipavskis, anyone who does not want to fulfill his obligations to his country does not yet meet the conditions for issuing a humanitarian visa. A meeting of 27 EU ambassadors was convened on Monday.

Opposition is needed in Russia

The Czech Republic is one of the strongest supporters of Ukraine. Lipavsky’s reasoning is based on the fact that the disaffected in Russia are needed to shake the Putin regime. Similarly, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas justified the ban on the entry of Russians: “Only 30 percent of Russian citizens have international passports and they come from the Russian elite. This means that they also have the ability to pressure the Kremlin to make other decisions if they feel that this war is affecting their daily lives.”

But it takes a lot of courage to rebel against the unfair rule of the state, the police and the judiciary. Political involvement is foreign to many Russians. For years, there was an unspoken agreement with the system: We leave you well-educated people out of our business. If you want to do it today, you’re looking no further. Organizational structures Alexei Navalny is Putin’s fiercest enemy were broken.

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The Russian opposition has been crushed, and Putin's main opponent, Alexei Navalny, is in prison.  - © AFP / Aleksandras NEMENOVAS

The Russian opposition has been crushed, and Putin’s main opponent, Alexei Navalny, is in prison.

– © AFP / Aleksandras NEMENOVAS

The 46-year-old also shows that resistance can be life-threatening. Navalny survived the poison attack, but after recovering and returning to Russia, he was imprisoned and tried. He is now in a prison camp with poor health prospects. Others were executed outright, the most prominent examples being opposition politician Boris Nemtsov (2015) and journalist Anna Politkovskaya (2006).

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