Russians who have fled Putin’s military draft have done so by car, train, plane, and, less frequently, boat. Except for two Russians who sailed into South Korea to avoid the draft, all have been denied entry.
Following military losses and failures on the ground in September, Putin ordered a “partial military mobilization” in an effort to add 300,000 troops to Ukraine. Since then, Russia has seen numerous protests, thousands of arrests, and a population fleeing in the hope of avoiding the conflict.
The majority of those fleeing conscription did so by plane, train, or car, but at least 23 took to the sea in the hope of reaching South Korea, according to Reuters. According to the Jerusalem Post, at least one group arrived on the South Korean Island of Ulleung from the Russian city of Vladivostok. According to NBC News, at least one boat is still stationed in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, despite the fact that those aboard have been denied entry since their arrival on Tuesday.
“It is likely that Korea will become an intermediate stopover as more people attempt to flee Russia,” South Korean lawmaker An Ho-young told NBC News. An stated that the government must develop “dedicated procedures for dealing with what could turn into a diplomatic and human rights issue.”
According to An, all but two of the Russians who attempted to enter South Korea by boat applied for tourist visas but were denied entry due to “insufficient documentation and unclear objective.” The two who were granted entry had previously visited the country.
According to Reuters, Russians who are approved through the country’s electronic travel authorization system are usually allowed to enter South Korea without a visa.
“The Russian visitors went through a regular routine immigration process like everyone else,” a South Korean Justice Ministry spokesperson told NBC News. “Those denied entry to South Korea were because they did not meet the visa requirements and regulations.”
According to the Korea Herald, Russia and South Korea have an agreement that allows citizens to enter for up to 90 days without a visa. However, if a person is visiting South Korea for reasons other than employment, residence, or study, they must obtain the Korea Electronic Travel Authorization before arriving, according to the outlet.
Those seeking refugee status in order to avoid military conscription do not usually qualify, according to the Korean news outlet. According to the Herald, which cited a Coast Guard officer, the official number of Russians seeking asylum is currently unknown, but more may be on the way.
“We don’t know if the Russians who sailed over here were requesting refugee status. But even if they were, I don’t believe taking them in would have harmed our relations with Russia “According to Lee Sang-joon, a professor of South Korean-Russian relations at Kookmin University.
“South Korea already accepts very few refugees,” he explained. “I believe now is a good time for us to reconsider our standards,” he said. “We could welcome Russian IT workers who have been fleeing their country in large numbers, as well as Putin opponents or those seeking political asylum.”