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Kazakhstan welcomes Russians fleeing draft

#Kazakhstan #welcomes #Russians #fleeing #draft

Emergency housing, paperwork support and a bit of compassion: Kazakhs were trying to aid an influx of Russians who have fled to avoid being called up to fight in Ukraine.

Queues of vehicles and groups of Russians — mostly young men — dragging their suitcases at the Kazakhstan border this week echoed the outflow seen elsewhere from Russia since President Vladimir Putin ordered a draft.

“Every day, more and more people are coming, we simply don’t know where to house them,” said Diana Mukanayeva, who spontaneously came to help out at a train station at the border. 

Kazakhstan has seen an unprecedented influx and by Tuesday said 98,000 Russians had arrived since Putin’s call-up of 300,000 reservists to contribute to Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

The surge has been seen elsewhere, including Finland, Georgia and Mongolia, as Russian men refuse to participate in the seven-month-old war that has drawn fierce opposition from the West.

Mukanayeva, wrapped up in a black duffle coat topped by a bright red volunteer vest, said Kazakhs understand the plight of Russians forced to “leaving everything behind and run”.

Russian men seeking refuge in a Central Asian nation was a reversal of the usual order, with migrants for decades leaving their homes in places like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to find work in Moscow and other Russian regions. 

“(Russians) tell us: ‘We don’t want to kill and we don’t want to be killed…’ so we, as humans, we just help in any way we can,” Mukanayeva added. 

– Crowded housing –

Some in Kazakhstan have even housed Russians for free — valuable help since rent prices in the Kazakh regions neighbouring Russia have increased by up to 34 percent this week, according to rental website Krisha.

Given the influx, the northwestern border town of Oral first made its cinema and sport halls available to house Russians.

But more have kept coming, so authorities opened a temporary welcoming centre at a children’s summer camp and by Thursday about 200 people were in its colourful dorms.

Volunteers were helping register the newcomers — a mandatory step for any Russian wishing to stay more than 30 days. 

One of them was Yuri Shvyn, a 39-year-old estate agent from Moscow.

Shvyn says was “really surprised at the welcome we got at the border… everyone is helping out”.

Kazakhs have also created help groups on messaging app Telegram with advice on how to get mobile phone cards or find a flat. 

“We are all really stressed out, but now that we crossed the border, people are calming down a bit,” said Shvyn, who left right after mobilisation was announced. 

“But everyone is in the same state: we do not know what will be next,” he added.

– Uncertain future –

Shvyn was hesitant, saying he could try to go to another country or stay and look for work in Kazakhstan “depending on the situation”. 

On Tuesday, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev promised his country would ensure the care and safety of Russians fleeing a “hopeless” situation.

According to current rules, registered Russians can stay in Kazakhstan for 90 days without a visa. 

Tatyana Keloskyna has been volunteering at the children’s camp, helping register newcomers dealing with Kazakh bureaucracy.

“Many say they don’t plan on leaving Kazakhstan, and want to look for a job here,” Keloskyna said, so she and other volunteers walk them through the paperwork. 

“Even our residents don’t know how to do that,” Keloskyna added with a laugh. 

Near another border crossing in the northern Kazakh city of Petropavl, Mikhail Kondakov proudly showed AFP his first official Kazakh documents. 

After a “very difficult, hard, fun and interesting” trip, the young Russian was starting to find his marks. 

“We are almost settled, already found a place, and people have been super nice,” he added, smiling. 

But Kondakov’s future is a “huge question mark” as he has no idea when he will be able to return to Russia, where his girlfriend remains.

Social Tags:
#Kazakhstan #welcomes #Russians #fleeing #draft

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