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Voices of Russians left behind after Putin ordered a draft: a telephone conversation with two Russians who left Alaska to avoid being drafted into the military
The Russian Embassy in Washington has said its diplomats will hold a “telephone conversation” with two Russian men who fled to Alaska to avoid being drafted into the military, state media TASS reported.
“The embassy is aware of the situation with the detained Russian citizens in the state of Alaska. The director of the Russian embassy in Washington, Nadezhda Shumova, said that they received a notification from the branch of the US Customs and Border Guard Service.
The two Russians who crossed into Alaska said they were afraid of being drafted by Russia into the conflict in Ukraine, so they sought asylum.
“The Russian nationals reported that they fled one of the coastal communities on the east coast of Russia to avoid compulsory military service,” said Karina Borger, a spokesperson for Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Vadim was depressed after Putin ordered a military draft of conscripts to fight in Ukraine.
It was late September 2022 and emotions were high in Russia because President Vladimir Putin had just imposed the country’s first military draft since World War II. The families of loved ones were seen wailing as they were dragged into war in Ukranian. Young men rushed to neighboring countries to avoid being involved in a fight.
He decided he had only one option left. Several days after Putin’s draft order, he bid his grandmother a tearful farewell and left his home in Moscow – potentially forever.
Vadim and his friend had to wait in line for three days to cross the Russian border with the former soviet republic of Kazakhstan due to their fast travel.
They arrive from cities across Russia: Yaroslavl, Togliati, St. Petersburg, Kazan. They all said the same thing when asked why they had left.
And it isn’t hard to spot the new Russian arrivals at the main railway station in Almaty. Every hour, it seems, young Slavic men emerge from the train wearing backpacks, looking slightly dazed while consulting their phones for directions.
“It’s not something I want to participate in,” says a 30-year old computer programmer named Sergei. He sat on a bench with his wife. The couple, clutching backpacks and rolled up sleeping pads, said they hoped to travel on to Turkey and hopefully apply for Schengen visas to Europe.
Giorgi, a writer in his late 30s from Ekaterinburg, says he fled to Kazakhstan last week after suffering panic attacks at the thought he could be dragged into the military.
Faced with the challenge of trying to make a living in a foreign city, Giorgi recognizes that his hardships pale in comparison to Ukrainians, who were forced to flee by the millions after Russia attacked their cities and towns.
Unlike Ukrainians, who are known for their bravery, Russian draft dodgers like himself can be seen as refugees and invaders by virtue of their citizenship.
But as Russia’s war in their country slogs on, Ukrainian refugees in the US who were once optimistic they would return to their homeland within two years are coming to grips with the fact that they’re probably not going back and having to wrestle with their legal status in the US.
The president of the Central asian country urged his countrymen to welcome the new arrivals despite Russian citizens currently able to enter with their national ID cards.
The situation is so bad that most of them have to leave. We must take care of them and ensure their safety,” said President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in late September.
The discrimination that citizens of Central Asian republics have been facing for years in Russia will not be part of the problem for Russians who are fleeing the draft.
Real estate experts say the flood of Russian exiles have already sent rents skyrocketing in Almaty, the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek and other cities in the region.
Russian companies are moving their operations to Kazakhstan, and other businesses as well, says the managing partner of the real estate firm.
There are young Russians working on their laptops at the City Hub in central Almaty, which she spoke to CNN about.
Vadim, the engineer from Moscow who recently arrived in Kazakhstan, says his company is sponsoring him and 15 other employees to transfer to the firm’s Almaty office.
Mexico has agreed to take back migrants from Venezuela who come to the US illegally, and the Biden administration has agreed to allow up to 24,000 people from Venezuela to enter the US.
An estimated 6.8 million Venezuelans have fled their country since the economy tanked in 2014, mostly to Latin America and Caribbean countries. The U.S.’s relative strength has led to Venezuela’s migrant workers looking to the north. Title 42 was not applied by the Biden administration so that has provided more incentive.
In August it became the second largest nationality entering the U.S. border after Mexico in response to a sudden increase in migration from Venezuela.
The Secretary of Mexico’s Foreign Affairs stated that those who wish to enter the United States will be able to do so in a more orderly, safe, regular and humane manner. The program discourages undocumented crossings that put migrants’ safety at risk.”
The Department of Homeland Security said that they will double the amount of work visas available for lower skilled industries. At least 20,000 of those temporary visas will be reserved for Haiti and northern Central American countries.
Until now, Mexico has agreed to accept migrants expelled under Title 42 only if they are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, in addition to Mexico, resulting in highly uneven enforcement. The cost and strained diplomatic relations make it hard for the US to expel other nationalities.
Poor relations with the Venezuelan government made it nearly impossible to apply Title 42. The pandemic rule has been used 2.3 million times since March 2020 but applied only 2,453 times on Venezuelans.
In August, Venezuelans were stopped 25,349 times, up 43% from 17,652 in July and four times the 6,301 encounters in August 2021, signaling a remarkably sudden demographic shift.
On the Status of the Uniting for Ukraine Program and the Implications for Humanitarian Assistance for the Ukrainan Refugee Crisis
The announcement amounts to a potentially major expansion of Title 42 even though the administration recently sought to end it. According to senior officials, they are bound by the judge’s May ruling that Title 42 remain in place.
There are currently no flights to the US from Venezuela. The restriction applies to charter and commercial flights.
The issue of Ukrainians in the US is a big one, said Yezerova, who works for Church World Service. When you don’t know how many years you can live here it is difficult to live here. Is it possible to study? Can you buy a car?
Nearly one year later, Yezerova remains in the US and is setting down roots in New Jersey, trying to chart out a life she never envisioned for herself.
The Ukrainian refugee crisis, as well as the need for humanitarian support and security assistance, will be put into sharp focus by President Joe Biden during his visit to Poland this week. Poland took in millions of people who were refugees during the Russia-Ukraine war.
The program allowedUkrainians seeking to come to the US to do so. Thousands of Ukrainians traveled to Mexico to get a visa, and then tried to enter the US through land ports of entry.
Now, as the one-year anniversary of Russia invading Ukraine approaches, many Ukrainians who came to the US are getting closer to the expiration of their parole, prompting concern about what comes next.
Mariia Mitina, like Yezerova, was among those who arrived through the Uniting for Ukraine program. Mitina fled Mariupol with her husband and two teenage children after the city fell to Russian forces.
With help from the family and the humanitarian group International Rescue Committee, Mitina arrived in Kansas last July and now works for the state’s Department of Children and Families.
The future of people who have fled is uncertain. Erol Kekic of Church World Service said some people thought there would be a chance to stay closer to home and visit their loved ones in the event of war ending. “Some people have already been here for a year and the chances of them going back are not high.”
Escape from Ukraine despite the War and the Crisis in the Uzbekistan–Mexico Interactions: Nailia and Philip, two children and two boys
“It’s creating an immense amount of anxiety and uncertainty. And it makes it virtually impossible to set down roots with any sort of confidence,” she added.
There was a moment whenNailia Manzurina and her two sons had to leave their husband in Russia.
Mikhail Manzurin, Nailia’s husband, was in favor of the invasion ofUkraine while he was in the draft. And he felt, very strongly, that he shouldn’t be forced to serve in the military against his will.
“I don’t want to kill (the) innocent people of Ukraine. They are protecting their territories. They are protecting their homes. And I don’t want to be a part of this invasion,” Mikhail Manzurin said.
Fearing Mikhail would be drafted, jailed or worse, the family decided to flee, embarking on a multi-country odyssey with their newborn, Philip, and toddler, Mark, that would take them through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Dubai, Mexico and ultimately to the United States – all with the help of strangers.
The number of Russians attempting to enter the United States has gone up by over 4% every year for the last five years according to the US Customs and Border Protection.
Days after reuniting in Kazakhstan, the Manzurins traveled by train to Uzbekistan. They slept on the floor for a long time in an apartment they shared with friends. He taught languages online to help his family. But Mikhail says he didn’t feel safe in Uzbekistan because the territory is a post-Soviet country.
Even though he knew it was a bad idea to speak out against the war on social media, Mikhail says he expressed his disdain from the pulpit of his church.
Parents complained about Mikhail’s anti-war stance, forcing him to quit his job. Mikhail transitioned to teaching languages online and life as they knew it would continue despite the war.
Mikhail says the men on the bus began cheering over their succesful escape when they crossed the border into Kazak.
Pastor Aaron Reyes and his family host the Manzurins in Austin, Texas, for a week or two years after arriving in the United States
Pastor Aaron Reyes of Practice Mercy and his family hosted the Manzurins in their home in Austin, Texas, for about a week starting at the end of January. There are a lot of lessons Americans can learn from the Manzurin story.
“Immigration is a life-or-death conversation and as people of faith, we choose life,” Ruth said. The first time a young family with infants contacted us from their region of origin, we answered his call for help.
But Ruth says this wasn’t the first time she had seen Russians at the US southern border. She says that it’s a phenomenon she started seeing about two years ago, but back then the numbers were small.
The Manzurins were told from Russian friends that it made their chances of entering Mexico easier. Indeed, the Manzurins arrived in Reynosa in late November and realized that as many as 700 Russians were waiting to enter the US legally.
Some men were arrested for demonstrating because of their protest of the war. One thing that all of them shared was their opposition to the Russian war with Ukraine.
Most of the Russians who ran one of the largest migrant shelters in Reynosa fled to Matamoros, Mexico, because they were fleeing Russia’s military draft, according to a man who runs the shelter.
US immigration authorities allowed Mikhail, his family, and his dog to enter the country through humanitarian parole, which allows people who would otherwise be ineligible for admission to the US to enter the country for a short period of time because of urgent humanitarian reasons.
The Manzurins say they were processed by US immigration authorities at the Hidalgo, Texas, port of entry and given a notice to appear before a US immigration judge in July 2024.
Mikhail Manzurin says he was apprehensive about moving his family to America because Russian propaganda and people in Russia say Americans are individualists who care only about themselves, and who don’t like Russians.
After he arrived in the United States, the pastor and members of the community provided his family with food, shelter, clothing and financial support.
“Material possessions isn’t what gives us contentment,” Reyes said. “They (the Manzurins) have, in their journey, lived on very little and they have lived from day to day and from week to week being content, happy.”
Mikhail: “We don’t want to see it in the US, nor would they tell us about it” (M.C.A.R.T.M.I., Oct. 26)
“(That) is my biggest fear here in the United States, that they will deport us,” Mikhail said. The US immigration authorities will not approve your case for political asylum because it is not good enough.