Germany prepares to take in Russians refusing to fight in Ukraine

·2-min read
Riot police detain a demonstrator during a protest in Moscow against mobilisation - Alexander Zemlianichenko /AP
Riot police detain a demonstrator during a protest in Moscow against mobilisation - Alexander Zemlianichenko /AP

Germany is preparing to take in Russian deserters refusing to fight in Ukraine after Vladimir Putin’s mobilisation sparked a mass exodus of fighting-aged men.

The government in Berlin said it would continue to offer political asylum to those courageous enough to oppose the Russian president’s war in the neighbouring country.

The cost of airfares soared and borders crossings with Finland and Georgia became clogged up after Mr Putin ordered the mobilisation, the first since the Second World War, of 300,000 reservists for service in Ukraine.

With thousands being arrested in Russia for taking part in anti-war demonstrations, Germany signalled it would be ready to take in more Russian dissidents.

Nancy Faeser, Berlin’s interior minister, said: “Deserters threatened with serious repression can as a rule obtain international protection in Germany.

“Anyone who courageously opposes Putin's regime and thereby falls into great danger, can file for asylum on grounds of political persecution.”

Berlin has streamlined its processes for asylum seekers fleeing Mr Putin's invasion of Ukraine, whether it be from the war-torn country of Russia.

Ms Faeser said the system for offering people shelter had been made "quick and unbureaucratic".

Asylum applications would be inspected on a case-by-case basis, and be subject to stringent security checks, the interior minister added.

Marco Buschmann, Germany's justice minister, wrote on Twitter: “Apparently, many Russians are leaving their homeland – anyone who hates Putin’s path and loves liberal democracy is welcome in Germany.”

But Berlin appeared to be alone in its offer to shelter Russians facing conscription, with Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland shutting their borders with Russia.

A spokesman for Britain's Home Office said normal rules would apply for Russians applying for asylum in the UK.

300,000 set to be called up to fight

Germany has already welcomed around a million Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, as well as a small number of Russian dissidents.

More than 400 Russians – most of them journalists critical of Mr Putin's regime – have been offered political asylum by Berlin since the start of the war.

Russia has around 25 million reservists at its disposal, with all Russian men required to do a year's military service between the ages of 18 and 27.

Some 300,000 are expected to be called up as part of the Russian president's mobilisation.

But there are fears a secret law passed by the Kremlin leader could mean up to 1,000,000 Russians are sent to fight in Ukraine.

The Kremlin denied that its decree could allow one million Russians to be enlisted.