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'You are not welcome': Border protest calls for Georgia to stop influx of Russians

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By Euronews  with AP
Georgian police form a line in front of activists holding an anti-Russian banner during an action organized by political party Droa near the border crossing at Verkhny Lars
Georgian police form a line in front of activists holding an anti-Russian banner during an action organized by political party Droa near the border crossing at Verkhny Lars   -   Copyright  AFP

Protesters at the Georgia-Russia border are calling on Tbilisi to stop the influx of Russians. 

Huge queues of Russians -- mostly men of military age -- have formed since President Vladimir Putin announced more reservists would be called up to fight in Ukraine. 

However, the Georgian pro-Western party Droa, who organised the protest, say the numbers arriving pose an imminent threat to the country's national security and economy.

"Georgia is occupied by Russia, in the same way that part of Ukraine is still occupied by Russia, that’s why they are not welcome here as friends or brothers," said Ukrainian activist, Mikhail Ulianin. 

"If they want to change something in their country if they disagree, and if they are against war and mobilisation, they must address these problems at home."

Giga Lemonjava, Droa's executive secretary, said: "Hundreds and thousands of Russian citizens cross the Russian-Georgian border every day. 

"The Georgian side has no precise information about who those individuals are and what their real intention is while arriving in Georgia. 

"The Georgian government which very openly cooperates with the Russian FSB (Federal Security Service) does nothing to respond to threats and challenges coming from Russia.

"But when the government enacts, we the Georgian people should demonstrate our position very clearly.

"We believe that such kind of migration from Russia in Georgia poses an imminent threat to Georgia's national security, Georgia's economy and stability in general."

'Tears, screams and a huge amount of people'

Georgia’s Interior Ministry said over 53,000 Russians have entered the country since last week.

However, Russians fleeing the mandate say authorities from Moscow have created checkpoints on the Russian side and have set up a recruitment office on the Verkhy Lars border crossing, looking to catch those trying to escape military service.

"My opinion is that (in Russia) the situation is very unstable, more precisely it is very bad and is threatening the lives of people," said Kiril Kuznetsev, who is from St. Petersburg.

"Nothing good is happening unfortunately when people like (the current government) are holding power."

Whereas, Aleksandr Kamisentsev, a Russian citizen from Saratov, said he decided at the last moment to leave “because I am not going to kill my Ukrainian brothers or go to prison.”

 "All is very scary (at the Russian side of the border crossing) - tears, screams, a huge amount of people. 

"There is a feeling that the government does not know how to organise it. 

"It seems that they want to close the border, but at the same time they are afraid that protests may follow and let people leave," said Kamisentsev.

North Ossetia, a Russian region that borders Georgia, declared a state of “high alert” and said that food, water, warming stations and other aid should be brought in for those who have spent days in queues. 

Volunteers on the Georgian side of the border also have brought water, blankets and other assistance.

North Ossetia has also restricted many passenger cars from entering its territory. Some media outlets released photos at the crossing showing a black van with “military enlistment office” written on it.

Finland set to restrict entry of Russians

Another such draft checkpoint was set up in Russia along the Finnish border, according to the independent Russian news outlet Meduza.

Although Putin has said the mobilisation call-up was “partial,” in a bid to secure about 300,000 men with past military service, many Russians fear it will be much broader and more arbitrary than that. 

There are numerous reports of men with no military training and of all ages receiving draft notices.

Finland also reported a record number of Russian arrivals last weekend.

This comes as authorities in Helsinki announced on September 23rd that they were planning to "significantly restrict the entry of Russian citizens", and would finalise the decision in the "coming days".

"Here in Vaalimaa, the traffic has been increasing since last Wednesday when Russia announced partial mobilisation in the country. We are currently up to a 40% (increase) in traffic" said Jesse Pirttinen, a lieutenant Guard Officer at the Vaalimaa border crossing 

Meanwhile, on the border between Russia and Kazakhstan, crowds of people, mostly men, are also looking to escape their fate on the battlefield in Ukraine. 

Many have filed for residency in the city of Oral and are trying to find temporary accommodation around the city. 

On Tuesday Kazakhstan's authorities said 98,000 Russians had arrived since Putin gave the mobilisation order last week.