Home Consulate Dual nationals fear visiting relatives in Russia as Putin announces partial mobilization

Dual nationals fear visiting relatives in Russia as Putin announces partial mobilization

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Demonstrations by anti-war movements have erupted in several cities across Russia following Vladimir Putin’s dramatic announcement calling for some 300,000 reservists to join the war against Ukraine.

The same goes for Kirkenes, the small Norwegian town a few kilometers west of the border with the heavily militarized Kola Peninsula. Outside the Russian Consulate General, protesters carried posters calling on Putin to end the war.

By nationality there were Russians, Ukrainians and Norwegians. Many actually have dual nationality; people with Russian and Norwegian passports.

Few wanted to speak openly, but Putin’s signature on “partial mobilization” worries. Will it be safe for Russian men living abroad to visit home, many wonder. Or what about those with dual nationality?

The rules of who is covered or not are quite vague. As outside the Consulate General in Kirkenes, social media reports across Russia debate on Wednesday what a partial mobilization actually means.

Who will be thrown into the meat grinder of war, was a question raised in a Telegram message from Murmansk.

Can anyone be sent to war? Will there be a full mobilization later? Can Russia’s external borders be closed on exit for men of certain age groups, or only for reservists now called upon to participate in the dramatic escalation of the war against Ukraine?

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The questions were many, the answers few. Meanwhile, one-way tickets on flights departing from Russia sold out hours after Putin’s TV announcement.

Lines of cars were reported at the border with Finland in the afternoon. At Storskog, the Norwegian checkpoint on the road to Murmansk, no increase in men leaving Russia has so far been reported.

Polina Vorobera, one of the protesters in Kirkenes on Wednesday, said the mobilization is now a big worry for many Russians in Norway.

“My family is in big trouble because my brother should get a new passport, a challenge that can only be solved by going back to Russia. But he can’t because we are afraid he will be called to war,” Polina explains.

“There are many here in Norway in the same situation,” she adds.

Natalia Solianik (left) and Tatiana Vasileva want the war to end. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

A few hundred Russians live in Kirkenes, many of whom have dual nationality. With the border a few miles to the east and Murmansk three to four hours away, many used to visit friends and family. Border crossings are easier for those with two passports as no visa is required.

“I spoke with two men today, both have Russian passports, and they said a planned weekend tour across the border was canceled this morning when they heard the news of the mobilization of Putin,” said Natalia Solianik.

During the protest, a group of fishermen from a Russian crabber approached protesters outside the consulate and began debating pro-war and anti-war arguments.

“I’m glad we’re at sea for many months and not going back to Russia soon,” one of the young men told the Barents Observer on condition that he not be named.

Roman Prokopenko (32) spent his early childhood in Novosibirsk before settling in Norway where he grew up and now works as a journalist for the regional newspaper iFinnmark.

Roman Prokopenko is a journalist at the iFinnmark newspaper. Its newsroom is a 15-minute drive from the border with Russia. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

With dual citizenship, Roman could easily travel to Russia without a visa.

Such a trip, however, will not happen anytime soon, he said after announcing on the news that Vladimir Putin was ordering a “partial mobilization” of citizens who served in the armed forces.

“My two grandparents and my father live in Novosibirsk and I have long thought about visiting,” he says.

“Then came the pandemic which hampered travel plans. It was followed by the conflict with Ukraine, creating many uncertainties,” says Roman.

With limited knowledge of how Russian laws are applied, he began to ponder the possibility that the military might call him into service if the war escalated while visiting his close relatives in Siberia. Roman Prokopenko has never had anything to do with the Russian armed forces.

“Now, with the partial mobilization, this uncertainty is even greater. I don’t know what can happen. Most likely, I will not go to Russia,” he says.

“My father and both my grandparents invited me and I would really like to go if the circumstances were different. My grandparents are starting to age,” says Roman Prokopenko.