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Kazakhstan to shelter Russians fleeing military draft for Ukraine war

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President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivers a speech Tuesday in the Turkestan region, saying fleeing Russians should be welcomed. Photo courtesy of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's Press Office/Twitter
President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivers a speech Tuesday in the Turkestan region, saying fleeing Russians should be welcomed. Photo courtesy of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's Press Office/Twitter

Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said during a speech Tuesday that his country will take in Russians fleeing the military draft to serve in the war against Ukraine

"Recently we've had many people from Russia coming here. Most of them are forced to leave because of the hopeless situation. We must take care of them and ensure their safety," he said.

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The Interior Ministry of Kazakhstan has reported that 98,000 Russians have crossed into the Central Asian nation since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "partial mobilization" on Sept. 21.

Moscow saw Kazakhstan as a reliable ally in the past, sending troops to help quell internal dissent against Tokayev's government earlier this year.

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But the Russian government has been increasingly isolated since the Feb. 24 full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

An exodus of Russian men has been reported across neighboring countries, with massive lines forming on the borders with Georgia, Finland and Mongolia. Unrest has been reported across the Russian Federation, with thousands of anti-mobilization protesters arrested by security services since the announcement of partial mobilization.

The majority-Muslim republic of Dagestan, Russia, has seen particularly intense protests, which have escalated into clashes with police, who have been filmed firing automatic weapons in the air to disperse protesters. Dagestan has suffered a disproportionate number of military casualties in Ukraine and there is a perception that ethnic and religious minorities are bearing the brunt of the war.

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The Ukrainian government has characterized the Russian conscription of forces as an act of desperation. Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told the New York Times last week, "Russians who demanded the destruction of Ukraine ended up getting: Mobilization. Closed borders, blocking bank accounts. Prison for desertion... everything is still according to the plan right?"

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