The military call-up will not be enough for Russians avoiding mobilisation to get asylum in Lithuania, according to Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas.
“Anyone who comes here, with or without a visa, can apply for political asylum, but conscription is not enough. [...] If there were simultaneous acts of persecution, we would consider it,” he told reporters at the parliament on Thursday, adding that people seeking asylum must also prove they are persecuted.
“What we see on the streets of Russia’s major cities, such as Saint Petersburg, right now, when hundreds or thousands of people have been arrested, it seems that if some of them were to flee persecution, they would have a reason,” the minister said.
However, he added, there have been “not many Russians fleeing the mobilisation at the Lithuanian border”.
“You can see them at other borders where Russian citizens had freer access or visa-free regimes. These are Turkey, Georgia, and there are queues and the desire to enter,” Anušauskas said.
In his words, most of the protests in Russia are taking place in major cities, but they are directed against the Kremlin’s deception, not against the war.
“They are expressing their resentment over the mobilisation and the deception because they were told there would be none. [...] I would say it’s not yet a protest against aggression,” the minister said.
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation and announced the start of a partial mobilisation in the country amid Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said around 300,000 reservists would be mobilised.
In response, Lithuania put its rapid response force on a higher alert, and the country’s President Gitanas Nausėda will convene a meeting of the State Defence Council next week.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Igrida Šimonytė also said that it was not “Lithuania’s duty, nor that of other neighbouring countries, to save all Russian citizens from the mobilisation”.
“I could hardly understand a situation in which we allow people to enter Lithuania on humanitarian grounds when the war was OK for them when they saw it on TV, sitting on the sofa, but it was no longer OK when their government called them to join the army,” Šimonytė said at the Seimas on Thursday.