Russians fleeing Putin’s recall sail to South Korea, most of them denied entry

by Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – More than 20 Russians have sailed on yachts off the North Pacific coast to South Korea, a South Korean lawmaker said on Wednesday, trying to avoid a military call-up to fight in Ukraine, but most were denied entry.

There has been a mass exodus of draft-age men from Russia since President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization on September 21, but most of them fled by road, rail and air to Europe and neighboring ex-Soviet countries, such as Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

Legislator Ahn Ho-young, citing Coast Guard data, said 23 Russians had arrived on four yachts, in South Korea since late September, but authorities had granted entry to only two.

The deputy said in a statement that the rest were “rejected because their purposes are unclear and they do not have sufficient documents.”

An said that two yachts departed from South Korea’s Ulleung Island and the southeastern port of Pohang on Tuesday, with 15 Russians on board.

The legislator added that two other yachts remained in Pohang, and one of them – which left with only two Russians on board after entering two – was planning to make the long voyage to Thailand.

A Justice Ministry official said he did not have details of the yachting issues, but Russians are generally allowed to enter the country without a visa as long as they have pre-approved via South Korea’s electronic travel permit system.

(Reporting by Hyunhye Shin; Editing by Simon Cameron Moore)

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