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Thursday, December 01, 2022

Stranded at Mexico border, anti-war Russians sweat their future as Ukrainians enter US

Stranded at Mexico border, anti-war Russians sweat their future as Ukrainians enter US

TIJUANA, Mexico, March 19 (Reuters) – Russians trying to enter the United States at the Mexican border are frustrated that they are not getting along like Ukrainians, despite leaving their homeland upon the invasion of Ukraine.

US officials have let go of dozens of Ukrainians during this week, but Russians remain in limbo, prompting some to camp on sidewalks along a barbed wire border fence, defying warnings from Mexican officials. Gave.

Maths teacher Irina Zolkina, who left Moscow with her four children and her daughter’s boyfriend, burst into tears when a US border agent took a look at a stack of her Russian passports on Thursday and said, shaking her head That they would have to wait – soon followed by the introduction of six Ukrainian men by the authorities.

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“For so many years we’ve lived in fear… it’s terrible even inside Russia,” she told Reuters in front of San Diego, Calif., in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.

Zolkina showed a BBC video to Reuters of her taking part in anti-war protests on February 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, which the Kremlin called a “special military operation” condemned by Western allies Was.

She was released a few hours later and left Russia with her children the following week, she said, passing through Tashkent and Istanbul, before reaching the Mexican beach resort of Cancun – a common jump for Russians crossing the US border. – off point.

According to the United Nations, more than 3 million Ukrainians have become refugees, most of them in countries bordering Ukraine. According to media reports, thousands of Russians have also left their country.

Some Ukrainians who cross into Tijuana have been allowed to remain in the United States for a year. read more

Asked on Thursday about Ukrainians and Russians at the border, US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Meyerkas said the government was helping people fleeing Ukraine, and was considering expanding humanitarian aid to other programs. .

The US-Mexico border has been closed to most asylum seekers as part of the coronavirus pandemic policy. read more

Asked about the current policy toward Russians, a Homeland Security spokesman said the agency makes exceptions to the order on a case-by-case basis for “particularly vulnerable individuals.”

‘Inappropriate’

A few dozen other Russians have wrapped themselves in thick blankets for days to sleep feet by the border wall, hoping US officials will hear their plea for protection.

“It’s unfair that we can’t go in,” said Mark, a 32-year-old restaurant manager who arrived from Moscow with his wife, who was flying to Mexico via Turkey and Germany in early March .

Both were arrested last year for three days after protesting in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, said Mark, who asked for his last name to be withdrawn. He said going back to Russia was not an option following the new law, which provides for up to 15 years in prison for defaming Russia’s military.

“It’s our decision to stay here and wait on the floor,” Mark, seated on a blanket, said as hundreds of tourists and US citizens entered San Diego. “If we leave this place, everyone will immediately forget about this problem.”

Between October 2021 and January, US government data shows border officials confronted about 6,400 Russians, some of whom said they were dissatisfied and are now in the United States. Read more The Russian embassy then said in a statement that it had contacted US officials about those nationals.

In Tijuana last week, Mexican officials gave travelers a list of nearby migrant shelters in Russian and a letter saying Russians could request asylum but should not camp at the busy border.

The letter, signed by Tijuana Migration Director Enrique Lucero, said staying there was running “the risk of the United States deciding to close the crossing for internal security reasons”.

Mexico’s Migration Institute did not respond to a request for comment.

For now, the Russians have stayed.

Mikhail Shlyachkov, 35, sitting on a cot under a parasol to avoid the glare, said he resolved to move with his wife to Mexico the day after the invasion, fearing he would be forced to fight close relatives in Ukraine. will be called for.

“I don’t want to kill my brothers, you know?” He said showing a picture of his birth certificate, which said that his mother was born in Ukraine.

As the Russians waited, US border officials also turned down complaints of unfair treatment to asylum seekers from Nigeria, Colombia, Honduras and Mexico.

“There is an element of racism by US officials,” said 19-year-old Kevin Salgado, a Mexican from the violent state of Michoacan, where he said his father and 16-year-old brother, both members of a community police, were killed.

“Why are they letting Ukrainians go? … Can someone explain to us?”

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Reporting by Diana Beth Solomon; Additional reporting by Dave Graham and Ted Hesson; Editing by Grant McCool

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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