Russian conscientious objectors: Berlin wants an EU solution

Berlin/Brussels (dpa) – The fact that many men are fleeing after the partial mobilization announced by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is positive news from the Federal Government’s point of view.

The extent to which EU states should offer help to those who do not want to fight in Ukraine is controversial. The main issue is whether conscientious objectors should only be able to go through the asylum procedure or whether there should be a special regulation that makes it easier for them to enter the European Union.

The federal government wants to reach a common line at European level in the next few weeks on how to deal with Russian conscientious objectors, said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit in Berlin. The current Czech EU Council Presidency called a meeting of the 27 EU ambassadors under the so-called crisis response mechanism for next Monday, a spokeswoman said.

It is “a good sign” that after the partial mobilization announced on Wednesday, many Russian men tried to evade military service. Now it’s a matter of finding “a viable solution” together with the other EU countries. In this special situation, just pointing out that anyone who manages to enter the country can apply for asylum is not sufficient.

Reasons must be examined in each individual case

However, the government spokesman pointed out that, for security reasons, the motives of the alleged conscientious objector had to be examined in each individual case. Because it must be ensured that the person who is admitted is not someone who is moving to Europe on behalf of the Russian state power. In April, the federal government expelled 40 members of the diplomatic staff of the Russian embassy, who the local authorities assumed belonged to the Russian intelligence services. Since then, the security authorities have been trying to prevent new agents from being smuggled in.

A spokesman for the EU Commission says the situation is being monitored very closely. A meeting at expert level is planned for the weekend. In addition, the authority points out that those affected have the right to apply for asylum. This is an unprecedented situation and geopolitical concerns and security risks must also be taken into account when deciding who will be allowed into Member States.

Finland wants to find its own solution

So far, Russian tourists have been able to enter the Schengen area via the Finnish border by bus or car. Nearly 6,000 Russians arrived at border crossings in south-eastern Finland on Thursday, more than doubling on Thursday a week ago. Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto announced that Finland would find its own solution. One does not want to become a transit country for Schengen visas that other countries have issued. The border with Russia should not be completely closed.

On Friday, the Central Asian ex-Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan also informed about increased migration from Russia. The number of people entering by car increased at various crossings, according to the border guard in the capital Astana. The ex-Soviet republics of Armenia and Georgia in the South Caucasus, for example, had previously spoken about mass arrivals. Flights are fully booked for days. Many Russians flee by car.

Others fly to Turkey, for example, where Russians can enter without a visa. One of them is Philip (28) from Moscow, who will land in Istanbul on Friday. “My draft was only a matter of time, but I don’t want to be part of this war,” he told the German Press Agency. His 31-year-old brother, an IT specialist, is expecting him. He had already left Russia on February 25 – one day after the start of the aggressive war against Ukraine.

“I have great sympathy for young Russians who don’t want to be burned up in a war that violates international law,” says the domestic policy spokesman for the Union faction, Alexander Throm (CDU). Therefore, any request for protection under the applicable laws must be seriously examined when the conscientious objectors arrive in Europe. After a case-by-case assessment, threatened Russians usually received international protection, said Sebastian Hartmann, spokesman for domestic affairs for the SPD parliamentary group. The security check is also necessary “if we take in people who are trained in weapons”.

Clara Bünger (left) says: “We mustn’t stop at nice appeals or pointing out that Russian deserters are free to apply for asylum in Germany .” Rather, humanitarian visas are needed – “because how else are those affected supposed to cross the heavily armed external borders of the EU?”

The Czech Republic is opposed to the admission

So far, however, there are no plans for a special reception program for Russian conscientious objectors, either in Germany or at EU level. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Germany has so far taken in 438 people from Russia through a program designed to offer protection to dissidents, journalists and scientists who are particularly at risk. According to the ministry, the decision-making practice of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees for asylum seekers from Russia had already been changed in April in such a way that “conscientious objection to military service is usually a reason for protection”.

According to the Foreign Ministry in Warsaw, Poland has not issued tourist visas to Russian citizens since the beginning of the war on February 24. The country has also spoken out in favor of extending this regulation to other types of visas. The Polish government has not yet commented on the question of accepting conscientious objectors. With the country taking in 1.3 million refugees from Ukraine and an overall anti-Russia sentiment, this is unlikely to happen.

The Czech Republic is opposed to taking in Russian deserters. “Those who flee their country because they do not want to fulfill their obligations to their own country do not meet the conditions for issuing a humanitarian visa,” emphasized Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky. However, Prime Minister Petr Fiala later admitted that nobody would be denied the right to an asylum procedure. With a few exceptions, the Czech Republic no longer issues visas to Russians.

© dpa-infocom, dpa:220923-99-866171/7

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