The Russians flee from the mobilization to Kazakhstan. What awaits them there? – DW – 23-09/2022

Published by
Peter Kavinsky

Kazakhstan has the longest border with Russia – more than seven and a half thousand kilometers, 51 checkpoints are located here. Since September 21, when the mobilization was announced in Russia, the checkpoints closest to the Kazakh cities of Petropavlovsk and Uralsk have had miles of queues from the Russian side.

What’s happening at the border

Mostly young people cross the border. Those who have already crossed the border at the Syrym checkpoint, which is closest to Uralsk, and landed on the Kazakh side, are happy to show photos and videos taken with their smartphones to show what happened to the other side of the border. So a man aged 38-40 and a boy aged 16-18, tired after a long wait at the border, but happy that they crossed the border anyway, told DW very emotionally and willingly what they saw while crossing the border’ post in the evening.

A programmer from Samara crossed the border at the post “Raw”Photo: DW

“There are many people there (ie the checkpoint on Russian territory. – Red.) 500-600 cars. In Samara immediately after the announcement of the mobilization all flights were sold outalthough their prices have increased significantly: from 100 to 300 thousand rubles in one direction,” said the man and the man.

According to them, they were the first to cross the border, now they have been waiting for several hours for the rest, their friends, who are still on the other side. They are all going to Uralsk for the first time, and then they will try to transit to Europe as some of them have Schengen visas and relatives abroad.

Where and why do Russians go?

A programmer from Samara, Igor, crossed the border between Kazakhstan and Russia on foot and agreed to speak to the camera during a meeting with journalists. He left behind a wife and two children in his hometown. To reach Kazakhstan, he stood in line for 12 hours.

“I’m going to the city of Uralsk,I want to avoid possible consequencesthat can happen to me in my hometown. Already known the call cameI do not have it yet. I’m afraid to fight I don’t want to kill and I don’t want to be killedsaid Igor.

When asked whether he supports the Kremlin’s actions regarding Ukraine, Igor replied that he would not comment on this. He plans to work remotely from Uralsk and monitor the situation in Russia. “I’ll be back if the situation changes,” he said and went to the taxi drivers nearby.

A girl from Tatarstan – Saniya, crossed the border at the checkpoint “Raw”Photo: DW

A girl named Saniya from Tatarstan said she was from Kazan but had never been to Kazakhstan. Together with her boyfriend, she left the house with one backpack and decided to catch up with the friend’s relatives, who had left the day before. According to her, they crossed the border quickly, in just 3 hours.

“We have decided to play it safe, you can always return. We are leaving because the mobilization has been announced. So far this does not concern us personally, because my young man is a student, I am his girlfriend. I graduated from the institute and do my own thing. When all is calm, you can returnuntil then we will stay here. We are 7 people, we are all young. We have not discussed Kremlin policies. It was sad to say goodbye to my parents, but one day it had to happen,” Sania said.

Relocation to Kazakhstan

Early in the morning, a taxi stops at one of the hotels in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest metropolis. Four young people, aged 20 to 25, quickly pull out their suitcases, pay off the driver and go to the hotel. When DW asks where they come from, the boys hesitate to answer. They look aside. It takes a long time to persuade them to talk to us, not to mention the condition – without recordings, photos and videos. Only then, after making sure the recorder is turned off and the camera is safely packed in a bag, does one of the guys answer:

– Yes, we just arrived.

– On the 21st, mobilization was announced in Russia. Is that why you left?

– Yes.

– What is your name?

– Nikolai.

– And why to Kazakhstan?

– It was more convenient (shrugs).

– How did you get there? Airline tickets are now very expensive.

– By bus to Chelyabinsk, and there by car to the border. We crossed the border legally and took a taxi to Petropavlovsk. From there almost a day by train.

Since there is no aggression on our part, other guys join Nikolai, saying that one of them is from Tula, the rest from Moscow. All are engaged in IT technologies and remote working, two of them have their own business.

– Do you want to stay here?

“I don’t know yet,” says one of the boys. – Let’s see how it goes. We will monitor the political situation. Suddenly the borders are closed and my family stays at home.

– Also we, with a friend, are both “remote workers”. I am officially employed in the Russian Federation. I don’t know yet how to get a residence permit here. We are planning to register a company here.

Many come, not all stay

There are many such young people in Kazakhstan today. Some come with their families, others alone. But not everyone stays, someone has already decided for himself that he is going to see the city, live here for a while and move on.

Checkpoint on the border of Russia and Kazakhstan Photo: DW

“I saw messages on the Telegram channel that Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan launched programs for IT people, such as “technoparks”, support is different, projects. Maybe I’ll go there,” one of the guys suddenly says.

Today, social networks are full of posts offering job openings, help starting a business, or getting a residence permit. Russians are actively discussing the same topics on Telegram channels. Someone is wondering if it is possible to get a residence permit, there are people who have decided to register a marriage in Kazakhstan and thus remain in the country. But many are primarily concerned with work.

“I would like to move to Kazakhstan, but I am afraid that I will not be able to find a job and therefore cannot stay in your country. I am a 4th year student. I am studying to become a programmer,” writes Ivan Frolov.

Is there a risk of deportation?

Especially young people who came to Kazakhstan fall under the second and third wave mobilization in Russia. Among them are those who are deeply concerned about the possible decision of the Russian government to pass a law on the search for conscripted civilians covered by the mobilization. Young people are interested in whether the Kazakh authorities will deport them in this case.

There is no article in Kazakhstani law on the deportation of foreigners in connection with mobilization in another state. Article 28 of the Law “On the Legal Status of Foreigners” explains that foreign citizens can be expelled from Kazakhstan for organizing and participating in unauthorized gatherings and marches, for providing false information to government authorities when submitting documents for the obtaining a permanent residence permit or citizenship of Kazakhstan, for violation of the regime at checkpoints across the state border and violation of migration law.

How long can Russians stay in Kazakhstan?

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan, a total of 4.3 million foreigners entered the republic in 2022 and 4.1 million left. Since the beginning of 2022, 3.2 thousand Russians have already been recruited for violating migration laws, which is only % of the imported citizens of the Russian Federation. 45.7 thousand foreign citizens were brought to court. Of these, 4.2 thousand people were expelled from the country.

There are currently 20,000 Russians in the country, according to the Interior Ministry. According to statistics, 1.66 million Russians have entered the country since January 2022 and currently 1.64 million have left, but, as the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan assures, foreign citizens who arrived in the country are “registered, with complete information about each of them, passport details and dates of entry to verify the stay.

At the same time, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan recalls, foreign citizens of any country do not have the right to unrestricted residence in the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Upon entering the territory of Kazakhstan, citizens of the Customs Union must register with the Migration Police of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan within 30 days. The period of residence in the country – no more than 90 days from the date of entry.

Also see:

Mobilization at any cost?

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Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at

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