Thousands of Russian men have fled Russia after the Kremlin ordered a partial mobilization last week. Many of those fleeing seek to stay with friends or relatives.
In Joensuu, Yle visited Gleb Yarovoy, who at the time had three Russians at home. Her children now share bedrooms with the new arrivals, and the family’s living room is equipped with makeshift sleeping areas.
Unlike Ukrainians, there is little structured support for Russian fugitives, most of whom try to stay with acquaintances.
Yarovoy, who has lived in Finland for four years, told Yle he decided to help everyone he knows who is leaving in response to the proposed announcement.
“Last spring we helped Ukrainians who fled to Finland and this experience helps us now,” he said, adding that his phone kept beeping in the first days after the announcement. of mobilization.
This week, Yarovoy offered shelter to nearly a dozen Russian men. He said most left after one or two nights.
“They are friends of mine, former colleagues and students. I have no problem offering them accommodation, but my wife and children may have a different opinion,” he said with a laugh.
Sometimes Yarovoy didn’t have room for everyone interested in staying with him, but said he called on friends to host people for the night.
vladimir*, who is now staying with Yarovoy, said he quickly made the decision to leave when the Kremlin announced plans for partial mobilization.
“At some point you realize that the best case scenario might be for you to leave the country, home and family. And that’s a very difficult decision to make. I’ve never made a tougher decision in my life “, Vladimir told Yle.
“Finland not ideal”
Russians who have recently arrived in Finland have mostly travelled, heading to countries like Serbia or Georgia that do not require visas from Russians.
Finland is not an attractive destination for many Russians, Yarovoy said, referring to the cost of living in the country.
“Russian payment cards do not work in Finland, and it is not easy to access euros in Russia. Even if you have cash, it can be difficult to use it to buy tickets train or book accommodation,” he explained.
However, many hotels are fully booked, especially in southeastern Finland.
“I tried to book a hostel in Helsinki for my friend. Not only was it full, but a place to sleep alone was 35 euros a night, which is a lot,” Yarovoy explained.
Meanwhile, Vladimir said he did not plan to stay in Finland as he believed it was harder to get a work permit here than in countries outside the EU.
Working as a freelance translator, he said he hoped to move somewhere he could bring his family.
“Life in Russia will not be easy. That’s for sure,” Vladimir said.
Yarovoy was on the same page. “The future is hopeless. Putin has led Russia into a dead end. It’s painful because I still have relatives and friends there.”
*Vladimir’s full name does not appear in this story because he fears official reprisals from the Russian authorities.
This week’s episode of All Points North explores security considerations following Finland’s decision to restrict the entry of Russian tourists. You can listen to the full podcast using the built-in player here, through Yle Areena, on Spotify, or through the options found in this article.