[Photo Source: ABC News]
As thousands of Russians look to flee the country in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s fresh troop mobilisation, European nations are divided on whether to welcome those fleeing the draft.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the Russian mobilisation is a tacit acknowledgement that its “army is not able to fight”.
Speaking with a US broadcaster, the Ukrainian leader also said he was bracing for more Russian strikes on Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure, as the Kremlin ramps up pressure on Ukraine and its Western backers in anticipation of a difficult winter.
Mr Zelenskyy portrayed the Russian mobilisation — its first such call-up since World War II — as a signal of weakness.
“They admitted that their army is not able to fight with Ukraine anymore,” he said.
However as thousands of Russians looks to flee the country in the wake of the military call-up, and unconfirmed reports that the Kremlin will soon close borders to fighting age men, European leaders are divided over whether or not to offer them asylum.
German officials have voiced a desire to help Russian men deserting military service and have called for a Europe-wide solution. Germany has held out the possibility of granting asylum to deserters and those refusing the draft.
In France, senators are arguing that Europe has a duty to help and warned that not granting refuge to fleeing Russians could play into Putin’s hands, feeding his narrative of Western hostility to Russia.
Yet other EU countries are adamant that asylum should not be offered to Russian men fleeing now, when the war has moved into its eighth month.
Those countries include Lithuania, which borders the Russian Baltic Sea exclave Kaliningrad, .
Its Foreign Minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, tweeted “Russians should stay and fight. Against Putin.”
His counterpart in Latvia, also an EU member bordering Russia, said the exodus posed “considerable security risks” for the 27-nation bloc and that those fleeing could not be considered conscientious objectors since they did not act when Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Many “were fine with killing Ukrainians, they did not protest then,” the Latvian foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, tweeted.