5 December 2022, Monday, 11:27
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‘Now Most Ardent War Supporters Are Also Looking For Options Where To Run’

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‘Now Most Ardent War Supporters Are Also Looking For Options Where To Run’

The Russians are fleeing also from Belarus.

After Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization, several Belarusian media reported that Russians in Belarus are now receiving special attention. Deutsche Welle and Nasha Niva wrote that the security forces track cars with Russian license plates, monitor apartments offered for daily rental — they are looking for those who are hiding from mobilization. The website zerkalo.io asked the Russians who live in Belarus how they feel about such news, and whether they have experienced something like this.

At the request of all the characters of the article, their names have been changed in the text.

“The situation is not safe, so my wife and I have already bought tickets to Georgia”

“My wife jokes that she runs around the apartment in a panic, and I sit calmly and say that everything is fine. I try to control myself, if I panic, then I won’t make sound decisions. I think until they bring me a military draft notice in Russia, where I am officially registered, then I don’t think someone will pay attention to me here,” says Vitaly, who has been living in Belarus for several years on temporary registration. He is about 30.

Vitaly is one of those who did military service. His job is a mechanic-driver. Just the one that was in demand during the start of the mobilization.

“I think if Russia decides to look for me, then finding me in Belarus is a matter of a few seconds. The situation is not safe, so my wife and I decided to leave. Literally an hour after Putin's speech, I was already monitoring flights to Georgia,” the Russian describes the situation. “The nearest date for which I could find something is October 6. The cost is 52 thousand Russian rubles for two (more than 2,260 Belarusian rubles — edit). Moreover, as soon as I booked the tickets, I saw the remaining seats for this date had already been sold.”

Vitaly is worried that by the time of departure, they might start turning Russians away at the passport control at the airport in Minsk. For safety, he is considering options for leaving early, by land:

“How long we will eventually have to stay in Georgia is unknown. Well, at least our work is remote.”

Now Vitaly is constantly in touch with his mother in Russia. If someone calls her at the door or on the phone with questions about her son, she should immediately tell him.

“In Minsk, my wife and I live under a lease agreement, which is issued in my name. If they start looking for me in Russia, we’ll move to another apartment,” the young man argues. “No one has visited me at the place of registration yet. Mom said they walked along the hallway. They knocked at one apartment. True, she doesn’t know whether they handed the owner a draft notice or not. The town where I come from is small. Approximately 30 thousand people. The guys wrote that from the factory where I worked before, 30 people received draft papers. Among those whom I know, there are no people willing to fight.

The man himself is against the war and believes that “the world is heading somewhere in the wrong direction”. His mother is neutral about what is happening. The grandfather supports the war, calling it a “special operation”.

“Now my mother is in shock, she says: “Run away, leave, check out of the apartment.” But it’s clear, I can’t check out remotely,” he explains. “Grandfather also began to worry about me. After the news that Ukraine began to reconquer its territories, he had a dissonance. It seems that they should win, but here ... He does not understand what to think about all that is happening, so he also advises me to run.

“Now one of the most ardent supporters of the special operation is also looking for options where to run”

Maxim is 39 years old, about ten of them he has lived in Minsk, where he moved from Moscow. He has a residence permit. The man is an IT specialist. He did not serve in the army: for various reasons he received deferrals and did not even take his military ID.

“But, as I found out, I am still among those who are in the reserve and may be subject to mobilization,” says the interlocutor. “Of course, the fact that I live in Belarus makes my situation relatively calm. I am registered in Russia. There are no marks anywhere that I am in Minsk. I warned my relatives: do not sign anything and do not tell anyone where I am. As a result, they will have to look for me to hand me the military draft notice. It’s unlikely anyone will do it. This is the first. Secondly, there was news that IT people should have a reservation.

Despite this, Maxim has no confidence that the mobilization will not affect him. According to his observations, the statements of the Kremlin officials may differ from what is happening in reality. So, after information about who will be called up, information appeared that, for example, those who were over 60 and those with many children received draft notices.

“The information field is now unclear, it is difficult to navigate in it. And when you look at how events have been developing since February 24, you understand that ordinary people are not important to officials. As it is convenient for them to achieve their goals, so they do,” the man argues. “The news about special attention to the Russians in Belarus also makes us worry. I have never encountered anything like this and have not heard of such examples, but if this turns out to be true, what could it mean? What if they tell me, go to Russia?”

From September 21, Maxim began to seriously think about leaving Belarus. To be fair, he had such thoughts before, he slowly prepared the necessary documents, read something. Now this process has accelerated noticeably for him.

“I'm already at the age when you can’t just pack overnight and relocate somewhere easily. I have certain things to do, property,” the man explains why he did not buy a ticket headlong. “And if you move, then you want to first deal with everything here, and then go to an understandable country, in understandable conditions. I think I have time for this. Due to partial mobilization, tension in Russia is increasing. In order not to strengthen it, the Kremlin is unlikely to close the borders for those who have not been handed the military draft notices in the near future. And why they won’t hand it over to me in a hurry, I explained.

The main office of the IT company where Maxim works is located in Moscow. On Friday, at the general meeting, the relocation of employees to branches in other countries was discussed — to the UAE, Uzbekistan. Some are going to Minsk. Some consider Belarus as a transit point: according to the man, many are not aware of the situation in the country.

“When I tell them what the news is, they begin to doubt, maybe it’s not worth going there,” Maxim jokes.

He says that there are no those willing to go to war among his colleagues. Although in the Russian office he met both those who supported the war, and those who hesitated:

“Moreover, this opinion is not always imposed on them by propaganda. They tried to understand the issue by some logic and came to such conclusions. Now one of the most ardent supporters of the “special military operation” is also looking for options where to run. His family was divided on this issue. Some believe that he should leave, others — that he should stay and, if drafted, go to the front. He says he is running, and is ashamed of it.

It's hard for me to imagine how this will end. Judging by how suddenly the mobilization was introduced, it seems that the Kremlin does not have a clear strategy either. In a negative scenario, if coffins with mobilized people start coming from Ukraine, perhaps people will gradually begin to realize that something is wrong, and this will result in protests against the war. Although, the example in Belarus showed that the security forces can suppress discontent. There is still a possibility that propaganda will turn the situation with the dead in such a way as to pump a negative image of Ukraine. But I hope people don't fall for it. Otherwise, everything will be very sad.”

“I think they will start looking for those who are outside of Russia last”

“After the news that the Russians in Belarus may now be given special attention, there was discomfort. Once again I try not to leave the house. Although I haven’t personally encountered anything like this yet,” 21-year-old Alexei describes the situation. The youngster has been in Belarus since the summer.

The young man is a sales manager. He did not serve in the army, but is considered fit for service in wartime. His military ID says “private”.

“My wife is Belarusian. We lived in Russia. Back in February, when the war started, we decided to leave the country for Europe, but I was offered a job in Belarus, and the plans changed a bit,” the interlocutor describes the situation. “We settled in Minsk. We decided that this would become our transit point, so that later we could move west. And then it all started.”

According to the young man, by Friday, September 23, four people from his entourage in Russia had received military draft notices. Two of them are friends who did not even serve in the army.

“They are apathetic, thinking what to do. They don’t want to go to certain death, and even fight, for something no one really understands, ”says Alexei. So far, they have simply been registered and sent home. Now they are looking at how to leave for Georgia, Armenia or Uzbekistan.

Alexei is also going to leave, only from Belarus. He says that the country is politically too dependent on Russia, so it is not safe for him to stay here. The priority destination is Germany, where escapists are planned to be given political asylum. If this does not work out, he will consider Georgia, Uzbekistan and other CIS countries. Haven't bought tickets yet, just looking into the situation. He says that it is reassuring that the draft notice has not yet come to him.

“In addition, for failure to appear at the military enlistment office without a good reason, you may face a fine of up to 3,000 Russian rubles (approximately 130 BYN)”, the source notes. “Then there may be a criminal case with imprisonment for up to ten years, but a criminal case means hours of scribbling and bureaucracy, and now the main thing for military registration and enlistment offices is to recruit people quickly. It’s easier to work with conscripts who are in the country, less pain in the neck. I think they will start looking for those who are outside of Russia last.”

Most of Alexei's relatives support the war. He says that he quarreled with them a lot on this topic, and tried to get through. No success though.

“The propaganda is doing its job. When I realized that it was pointless to have such conversations, I stopped touching on these topics,” the interlocutor explains. “At the same time, now, when they can take me, my family and relatives are very worried. I think many families in Russia are now in this situation. It's easy to say “go kill them”, when someone else is fighting. And if it can affect the life and health of your child, husband, brother, the situation looks different. A striking example is the story of my second cousin. He doesn't have a military ID yet, but at any time he can be drafted into the army. As soon as his parents, who are for the special military operation, found out about this, they immediately began to wonder: “How come? This is our son.”

Alexei believes that the situation, when the war has come closer to every Russian home, may give a chance that the inhabitants of the country will understand how “creepy and terrible” the whole situation is.

“I myself will try to avoid military service. I am a humane person. For me, life is the highest value. And I have no right to deprive someone of it,” he concludes.