ISSN 2330-717X

Massive Influx Of Russians Fleeing Mobilization Angering Belarusians – OpEd

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Neither Moscow nor Minsk is offering any reliable figures on the number of Russian men who have fled into Belarus to escape mobilization, but their number is almost certainly has been larger than into any other country and their arrival, even if it is only for transit to other countries, is creating problems, according to Innokenty Kolbasov.

Russians have chosen to go to Belarus in especially large numbers, the Versiya commentator says. First, it is the easiest and cheapest place for Russians to go. Second, most Belarusians speak Russian. And third, costs are low and the availability of air tickets onward is high (versia.ru/kak-v-belorussii-vstrechayut-uexavshix-posle-obyavleniya-mobilizacii-rossiyan-formalnosti-ceny-i-rasprostranennye-problemy).

The impact of the new arrivals has been felt most dramatically in the property market, both hotels and short-term rentals and real estate purchases for those who may want to stay in Belarus for longer. Short-term rental costs in the city of Minsk have doubled, putting many places beyond the reach of Belarusians.

At the same time, some Belarusian property owners are reluctant to rent to the arriving Russians lest they leave unexpectedly. As a result, required deposits are rising even more rapidly so that the owners won’t be left in the lurch. But that change in the property marketplace is also affecting locals.

According to Kolbasov, “Belarus had become a safe harbor long before the partial mobilization.” Many who experienced difficulties entering Russia because of debts or other legal problems have remained there. Some Belarusians are now offering Russians help in crossing the border illegally bypassing Russian border guards.

Minsk has taken steps to limit one form of the Russian influx – medical tourism. Any Russian coming in legally or wishing to remain longer than 90 days must purchase health insurance and the cost for that can range up to 1100 US dollars a year, an enormous figure for most.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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