Conscription fears grip Russia as thousands try to claim US asylum

Conscription fears grip Russia as thousands of men and their families try to claim political asylum in the US to avoid being drafted into Putin’s army, claim immigration lawyers

  • Thousands of Russians are trying to dodge conscription into Putin’s army 
  • Russian men and their families are fleeing to the US to claim political asylum 
  • The number of Russians stopped recently at the Mexico-US border has rocketed

Thousands of Russians are trying to dodge conscription into their army by fleeing to the US via Mexico to claim asylum, immigration lawyers have claimed.

Many are afraid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will leave Putin wanting more people to join up to bolster his troops.

Ukraine has already banned men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country in a bid to guarantee the country’s ‘defence and the organisation of timely mobilisation’ and many Russians are escaping before their homeland takes similar steps.

The number of Russians stopped from crossing over from Mexico to the US has rocketed in the last few months.

Dmitry Politov, 29, (pictured) from Moscow, supported Navalny and fled to the US from Russia to claim political asylum

Only 467 Russians were stopped at the US-Mexico border in 2020 but after Russian dissident Alexei Navalny’s arrest, that figure jumped to 9,376 for 2021

An armed Russian soldier at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant yesterday

Ekaterina Mouratova, a Russian-American immigration lawyer based in Miami, said the number of Russians hoping to claim asylum would ‘skyrocket’.

‘We have never been so busy,’ she told the Telegraph. ‘I have got tons of emails in the last few days – hundreds.

‘They are mostly men between 20 and 55 who are asking if they can get protection from the US if Russia does a mandatory military draft.

‘These people do not want to go to war.’

Only 467 Russians were stopped at the US-Mexico border in 2020 but after Russian dissident Alexei Navalny’s arrest, that figure jumped to 9,376 for 2021.

This year the numbers are continuing to increase. Last month alone 1,028 Russians tried to cross the border.

Dmitry Politov, 29, from Moscow, supported Navalny and fled to the US from Russia last year for fear of reprisals.

This map shows the strikes Russia is so-far known to have carried out against Ukraine, with more explosions rocking the country in the early hours of Sunday morning

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky remains alive – and is fast becoming an international hero – as Vladimir Putin’s efforts to topple the Kyiv government and install his own puppet cabinet runs into trouble 

He went to the US because he thought Moscow may still be able to reach him if he remained in Europe.

Mr Politov claimed political asylum as an opponent of the Russian government after approaching US border officials on the border between Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego, California, which is the journey most Russians on the run try to make.

It has become more and more difficult for Russians to travel to America legally. At the start of the pandemic, consular services were hit and the relationship between the two powers has disintegrated, especially since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Moscow’s US embassy does not even give tourist visas to Russians anymore. 

Smoke and flames are seen billowing over Kyiv’s Peremohy Avenue in the west of the city, near the zoo, in the early hours of Saturday morning

Ukrainian soldiers take positions outside a military facility as two cars burn, in a street in Kyiv, February 26, 2022

A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine on Saturday morning

A Ukrainian man waits with his gun at a territorial defense registration unit Saturday. Tens of thousands of ordinary Ukrainians have signed up to try and help their military defeat Vladimir Putin’s invasion 

Even though Putin’s army is the world’s fifth-largest active military and dwarfs that of Ukraine, Russian casualties are claimed to be high and the war is reportedly costing an astronomical amount each day.

Estonia’s former defence chief Riho Terras claimed that the war is costing Russia around £15billion-per-day.

Moscow’s 900,000 active military personnel means its forces are only smaller than those commanded by China, India, the United States and North Korea.

Yet although Ukraine has put up a brave defence, an influx of more Russian troops could turn the war in Moscow’s favour.

A shorter war would certainly be less expensive for Russia.

Even without a large increase in Russian manpower, the arithmetic looks grim for Ukraine. Its 196,600 personnel puts its military in 22nd place worldwide but it is not just the number of active troops that sets the neighbours apart.

Most military experts’ estimates put the number of Russian troops near Russia’s border with Ukraine in the days leading to the invasion at more than 150,000.

Russia had also moved some troops to Belarus, north of Ukraine, for military drills.

Russia’s army has about 280,000 personnel and its combined armed forces total about 900,000, while its 13,367 tanks outnumber Ukraine’s by more than six to one, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

The IISS also reports that Russia has 5,934 artillery units compared to Ukraine’s 1,962, and 19,783 armoured military vehicles compared to Ukraine’s 2,870.

The institute, which tracks the military capabilities of the world’s nations, also shows Russia’s dominance at sea and in the air.

According to their figures, Russia’s air force boasts 165,000 personnel, 1,328 attack aircraft and at least 478 helicopters. Ukraine meanwhile has 35,000 air force personnel, 146 attack aircraft and 42 attack helicopters.

The disparity in Russia and Ukraine’s navies paint a similar picture.

Russia has 150,000 navy personnel at its command compared to Ukraine’s 15,000.

Putin’s 74 warships and 51 submarines have meant Russia has been able to block Ukraine’s routes to the sea. Ukraine has just two warships and no submarines.

But while Russia easily outnumbers Ukraine’s forces, some of its technology is not as advanced as that used by Western nations.

The Russian exodus came as Ukrainians fled their war-torn homeland because of Putin’s invasion.

A UN official admitted as many as four million Ukrainians could move out of the country as refugees because of the crisis.

Around 120,000 people have already left Ukraine as refugees since the war started on Thursday. 

Ukrainians from Kiev board an evacuation train driving to the west of the country

Around 120,000 Ukrainian refugees have crossed into neighbouring countries since the start of the war on Thursday

People coming from Ukraine descend from a ferry boat to enter Romania after crossing the Danube river at the Isaccea-Orlivka border crossing

Ukrainian citizens arrive at a border control checkpoint between Poland and Ukraine at the railway station in Przemysl, eastern Poland

A Polish border guard assists refugees from Ukraine as they arrive to Poland at the Korczowa border crossing, Poland

Ukraine war latest, at a glance  

  • Russia failed to capture Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv during fighting on Saturday night and Sunday morning 
  • But Russian forces entered Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, on Sunday morning
  • Street battles were reported to be taking place, while pictures appear to show one Russian military vehicle on fire
  • Oleh Sinehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration, said Ukrainian forces are fighting Russian troops in the city and asked civilians not to leave their homes 
  • Russian forces have reportedly blocked Kherson and Berdyansk and delivered another missile strike on Ukraine’s military infrastructure, the Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov says
  • UN reports that at least 240 Ukrainian civilians have been killed 
  • Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko says their airforce shot down a missile aimed at the capital Kyiv, by a plane that flew in from Russian ally Belarus 
  • As the fighting raged on, Russia claimed it was engaging in peace talks with the Ukrainian government in Belarus 
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the delegation includes military officials and diplomats. ‘The Russian delegation is ready for talks, and we are now waiting for the Ukrainians,’ he said. 
  • However, while Zelensky said that while said the Ukraine was ready for peace talks, he said they would not be taking place in Belarus – which was a staging ground for Russia troops prior to the invasion
  • In a televised address, Zelensky, standing beside a Ukrainian flag dressed in an army green t-shirt and jumper, said: ‘If there had been no aggressive action from your territory, we could talk in Minsk… other cities can be used as the venue for talks.
  • Meanwhile, Ukraine has obliterated a 56 tank convoy of feared Chechen fighters
  • Among those killed was one of Chechnya’s top generals, Magomed Tushaev  
  • At least two blasts have rocked the country in the early hours of Sunday local time
  • Vasylkiv, which sits southwest of Ukraine, saw its air base’s fuel depot attacked by Russian ballistic missiles
  • Subsequent blaze cast an eerie orange glow over Kyiv, around 40 kilometers north east 
  • Gas pipeline was blown up near Kharkiv, sending huge mushroom cloud billowing into the sky
  • Woman was killed in Kharkiv after Russian shell hit apartment block 
  • Elon Musk agreed to turn his Starlink satellite network on over Ukraine as officials want to ensure locals can still access the internet if Russia destroys telecoms network
  • Keen to push back against Russian propaganda, and expose the violence being meted out by Putin’s army
  • Russian premier said to be furious at slower-than-expected efforts to conquer Ukraine 
  • There are fears that delays in Russia’s invasion plan could lead Putin to become more desperate in his attempts to crush Ukrainian resolve.
  • A Russian thermobaric rocket launcher was spotted by a US film crew south of Belgorod, Russia, near the Ukrainian border.
  • The weapons, which contain a highly explosive fuel and chemical mix and send out supersonic blast waves that can rip buildings and bodies apart, can reduce cities to rubble and would cause huge loss of life. 
  • Millions of citizens are sheltering underground
  • But others have taken to the streets armed with guns and Molotov cocktails, to try and fight back
  • US and EU have agreed to curtail Russia’s use of SWIFT messaging system, which is vital to for global financial transactions

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