Holiday in Montenegro becomes an escape from call-up for Russians

Though officials called on Russians to mobilise in Ukraine, some are turning down the opportunity to go to war

September 27, 2022 05:40 pm | Updated September 28, 2022 05:21 pm IST - BUDVA (Montenegro)

Alexander and his wife Svetlana walk on Jaz beach near Budva, Montenegro, September 26, 2022.

Alexander and his wife Svetlana walk on Jaz beach near Budva, Montenegro, September 26, 2022. | Photo Credit: Reuters

When Alexander and his wife Svetlana arrived for a two-week vacation in Montenegro, they planned to return home to Russia.

But President Vladimir Putin's announcement last week ordering a mobilisation of reservists for the war in Ukraine has thrown their lives into disarray.

Speaking to Reuters in Montenegro's Adriatic town of Budva, Alexander, 30, a horticulturist, said he had no plans to go back and risk being drafted to go and fight.

"This is not our war. We are attacking our neighbours, brothers, we are trying to occupy territories that are not ours," he said. "I definitely will not fight for that, let alone die for it."

Both Alexander and his wife declined to give their full names.

Russian officials have said 300,000 troops are needed for the mobilisation, called as Russia's seven-month campaing in Ukraine has stalled. Priority will be given to people with recent military experience and vital skills.

But reports have appeared of men with no military experience, or past draft age, receiving call-up papers, fueling outrage and anti-war protests.

Tens of thousands of people, many of them males, have choked border crossings between Russia and neighbouring ex-Soviet republics such as Georgia, Kazakhstan, or Tajikistan. Others hastily purchased overpriced air tickets to Western European countries, Montenegro, Turkey or Israel.

"I am afraid many more will leave unless they (Russian authorities) finally shut borders. I am afraid we will have no friends left in Russia," Alexander said.

Russia officially counts millions of former conscripts as reservists - most of the male population of fighting age.

Maxim, 48, a physician, was also vacationing in Montenegro when he heard about mobilisation at home. He decided not to return to Moscow.

"Many of my colleagues have received call-up papers. Some are even older than I am, and not as healthy for fighting," he said.

Svetlana said she will travel to Russia to bring their year-and-a-half daughter and sell whatever property they have before they can try to start a new life in Montenegro.

"We are not afraid of work. We will try," she said.

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