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Wednesday, December 07, 2022

‘Worst yet to come’: Russians crowd at border amid recruitment fears

'Worst yet to come': Russians crowd at border amid recruitment fears

(CNN) — With a bag in each hand and the other on his back, Dennis walks up a hill after crossing the Russian border into Georgia.

“I’m just tired. That’s all I feel,” said the 27-year-old, trying to catch his breath.

Dennis has spent just six days on the road, most of them waiting in line to cross the border. He is one of hundreds of thousands of Russians who face a grueling marathon journey to leave their country.

Although there are women and children among those crossing, most are men of fighting age who fear the prospect of being recruited to fight in the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. According to the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs, at least 10,000 lars are crossing the border daily.

Denis, who did not wish to reveal his last name, said he decided to leave due to uncertainty, which followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement last week of a “partial mobilization” of citizens, his first assertion. Notwithstanding that only professional forces would participate in a military attack. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the army would recruit about 300,000 people with previous military experience to fight in Ukraine.

Although the current draft should not apply to him, Dennis fears that could change.

“How do I know what will happen three years from now? How do I know how long it will take?”

“It is uncertain, and no one knows what will happen next,” he said.

According to the country’s interior ministry, about 10,000 Russians are crossing the border into Georgia every day.

His sentiment is shared by many people crossing the border into Georgia. They are teachers, doctors, taxi drivers, lawyers and builders, ordinary Russians who have no appetite for war. And while they say they disagree with the government, they believe there is nothing they can do to force Putin to change course.

Instead, he has chosen to leave his homeland despite the dangerous journey. Dennis said he spent days in his car without food and adequate access to toilets.

“While you’re waiting there, there’s no bathroom. You can’t eat a lot because everything is over immediately and no one packs a lot of food because no one expected it would take that long “

Another person CNN spoke with walked 12 miles (20 kilometers) to reach Georgia, also fueled by concerns that the draft might expand.

“It doesn’t apply to me today, but it may apply tomorrow,” the person said, speaking to CNN on condition of anonymity, as he fears Moscow’s far-reaching hand.

And 28-year-old marketer George Vatsadze says he is leaving Russia because he doesn’t want to hurt his loved ones. He has a Ukrainian grandmother and cousins ​​who live in the country.

“I can’t go there to fight,” he said.

Vatsadze crossed paths with his brother, who was eligible for the draft. He was carrying only one bag with some clothes of himself and his dog. He says that he could only do this.

Exhausted and excited, he is happy to come to Georgia, but is disappointed that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has forced him to leave his home.

“I think maybe half of our population thinks war is wrong, but they can’t resist it because it’s dangerous,” he says. “Right now, just saying that, I’m putting myself at risk.”

He didn’t want to go, but now he thinks he might never come back.

“It’s all because we can no longer trust our government, because they told us so many lies,” he says. “We had heard that there would be no mobilization, but after six months here we are.”

“What’s going to happen in another six months?” She asks, fighting back tears.

“I don’t know, and I don’t want to find out.”

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