Anti-war Russians Are Worried About Their Futures As Ukrainians Cross The Border Into The United States

Despite abandoning their homeland over the invasion of Ukraine, Russians trying to enter the United States via the Mexican border are angry that they are not getting in like Ukrainians. Hundreds of Ukrainians have been allowed to enter the United States this week, but Russians are still stuck, causing some to camp on the pavement outside a barbed-wire border fence, defying Mexican authorities’ orders to depart. Irina Zolkina, a math teacher who left Moscow with her four children and her daughter’s fiance, fell into tears as a US border agent looked at her stack of Russian passports and shook his head, telling them they’d have to wait – just after officials welcomed in six Ukrainian men.

“There are so many years of fear that we’re living in … it’s awful inside Russia too, she told Reuters in Tijuana, Mexico, near San Diego, California. Zolkina handed Reuters a BBC video of her arrest for attending an anti-war protest on February 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine in a “special military operation” opposed by Western partners. She was released a few hours later and said she left Russia with her children the following week, going through Tashkent and Istanbul before arriving in Cancun, Mexico, a popular stopping point for Russians heading to the US border.

According to the United Nations, about 3 million Ukrainians have become refugees, the majority of whom are in countries neighboring Ukraine. According to media estimates, tens of thousands of Russians have also left the nation. Some Ukrainians crossing the border in Tijuana have been granted a one-year visa to stay in the United States. When asked about Ukrainians and Russians at the border on Thursday, US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the administration was assisting those fleeing Ukraine and that new measures to enhance humanitarian aid were being discussed.

A coronavirus pandemic policy has closed the US-Mexico border to most asylum seekers. When asked about the current policy toward Russians, a representative for the Department of Homeland Security said the agency made exceptions to the order on a case-by-case basis for “especially vulnerable individuals.”

‘UNFAIR’

A few dozen additional Russians have been sleeping feet from the border wall for several days, covered in heavy blankets in the hopes that US officials will listen to their requests for safety. “It’s ridiculous that we can’t get in,” said Mark, 32, a restaurant manager who arrived in Mexico with his wife in early March after traveling from Moscow through Turkey and Germany. Both were detained for three days last year after rallying in support of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, according to Mark, who requested anonymity. He stated that returning to Russia was not an option due to new legislation that stipulates up to 15 years in prison for actions that are determined to be detrimental to Russia’s army.

“We chose to be here and wait on the floor,” Mark remarked as he sat on a blanket watching hundreds of visitors and U.S. citizens enter San Diego. “Everyone will forget about this difficulty as soon as we leave this spot.” According to US government data, border officers encountered around 6,400 Russians between October 2021 and January 2022, some of whom claimed to be dissidents and were now in the US. In a statement at the time, the Russian Embassy stated it had alerted US authorities about those citizens. Mexican officials gave out brochures in Russian last week in Tijuana, identifying nearby migrant shelters and a letter stating that Russians can seek asylum but should not camp near the bustling border.

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Staying there put them at risk of the US closing the border crossing for internal security reasons, according to the letter signed by Tijuana migration director Enrique Lucero. A request for a response from Mexico’s migration institute was not returned. The Russians are remaining put for the time being. Mikhail Shliachkov, 35, sat on a cot beneath a parasol to shield himself from the sun, said he planned to travel to Mexico with his wife the day following the invasion, fearing he would be drafted to fight close relatives in Ukraine.

“You know, I don’t want to kill my brothers.” He claimed this while holding up a photo of his birth certificate, which shows that his mother was born in Ukraine. While the Russians wait, asylum applicants from Nigeria, Colombia, Honduras, and Mexico have been turned away by US border officers, prompting charges of discriminatory treatment. “There’s an element of racism by US officials,” said Kevin Salgado, a 19-year-old Mexican from Michoacan, where his father and 16-year-old brother, both members of a community police force, were assassinated. “Why are the Ukrainians being allowed to pass?” “Could someone please explain?”

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