'I just want to be safe';  Young Russians flee the country at Putin's call

Traffic to Finland from its border with Russia was intense this Friday, due to a sustained increase in men Russians crossing the border since President Vladimir Putin ordered a military mobilizationborder guards said.

The number of Russians who entered the day before was more than double the number who arrived last week, they said.

This morning there are still many people(…) it may have increased a little compared to yesterday, ”said a spokesman for the border guard.

Max, a 21-year-old Russian student who did not want to give his last name, said he was going to Finland to catch a flight to Germany to visit relatives.

“Technically, I’m a student, so you shouldn’t be afraid of being recruitedbut we have seen that things are changing very quickly, so I assume there is a possibility,” he told Reuters after crossing the border at Vaalimaa.

“I just want to be safe”said.

Some 7,000 people entered from Russia on Thursday, some 6,000 of them Russians, which is an increase of 107% compared to the same day the previous week, according to border guards.

Three people had applied for asylum Thursday. None had done so the week before, she said.

A Russian couple, Slava, 29, and Evgeniy, 35, also left in the face of uncertainty to be called up to the Russian Army at some point.

They decided to leave the moment Putin announced the partial mobilization on Wednesday, they said. They left their dog Moby with some friends. Their families cried when they left, they said.

“At the current stage, we have not been called, but we don’t know what will happen tomorrowSlava told Reuters. “We do not support what is happening now. We don’t want to be a part of it.”

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“It was a difficult decision (to leave). We have plans, we have races. The best scenario is to return. On the other hand, (saving our) life is essential.”

Finnish land border crossings have remained among the few entry points to Europe for the Russians after a number of countries closed both their physical borders and their airspace to Russian-national aircraft in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

At Vaalimaa, the busiest crossing point, cars queued up to 400 meters on Fridaya longer queue than the day before, according to a border official.

“Compared to Friday last week, we have more traffic,” Vaalimaa deputy station chief Elias Laine told Reuters. “We expect traffic to remain heavy through the weekend.”

Those arriving by car or bus left their vehicles to have their documentation checked before continuing on their journeys. Border guards searched some vehicles.

The queues were also “longer than normal” at the second most important border crossing in Nuijamaa.

Finland chose to keep its border with Russia open after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24although it has reduced the number of consular appointments available to Russian travelers seeking a visa.

Finland is considering barring entry to most Russians.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Thursday that the government was assessing the risks posed by people traveling through Finland and was studying ways to drastically reduce transit from Russia.


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