A recent report from RFE/RL detailed incidents in which Russian passport control denied dual Russian-Kyrgyz citizens from departing the country. Articles like these have sparked another wave of confusion regarding Russian travel restrictions following the mobilization orders of September 2022.
A new amendment set to go into effect from March 1, 2023 has only added to the growing unease. The Russian government announced that it is reviewing plans to establish checkpoints at which a digital appointment will be required to secure departure across the border.
The partial mobilization of Russian troops was announced on September 21, 2022. It called into service “military reservists, primarily those who served in the armed forces and have specific military occupational specialties and corresponding experience.”
In addition to fearing that themselves or their loved ones could be called into a combat zone, many Russian citizens reacted negatively to the news that they could be prevented from leaving their country. While the Kremlin did its best to disguise the reach that the order would have, the official decree was clear.
Article 21 of the mobilization law reads:
- When mobilization is declared, citizens subject to call-up for military service must report to muster stations by the deadlines specified in mobilization orders, summonses and orders of military commissariats, federal executive bodies with a reserve.
- Citizens on the military register shall be prohibited from leaving their place of residence without the permission of the military commissariats, federal executive bodies with a reserve, from the moment of the announcement of mobilization.
The partial mobilization unofficially ended less than two months after it was announced. Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu were quoted on the completion of partial mobilization on October 28, 2022.
“The dispatch of citizens called up for mobilization ended today. The notification of citizens has been terminated. The task you set—300,000 people—has been completed. No additional assignments are planned.”Sergei Shoigu, speaking to Vladimir Putin
Putin later answered a question about formally ending mobilization in the same way he had announced it—by presidential decree. “Frankly speaking, I haven’t thought about it. I will talk to lawyers about whether it is necessary to declare by decree that it is over,” he said. At the same time, the President assured that “the point has been made.”
Some Russian lawyers proposed that a verbal statement could be sufficient in ending partial mobilization. But the majority are in conclusion that a formal decree would be necessary, especially given that the initial order contained no specific deadline.
Many Russian citizens believed that they were free to travel without restriction after the official statements from Putin and Shoigu.
As stories began to surface, such as those of Russian-Kyrgyz citizen Beklobat, who was denied departure from Russian when trying to return to Kyrgyzstan in late December 2022, so did uncertainties regarding the ability of Russian citizens to travel abroad. According to the RFEL/RL article, Beklobat was included in a mobilization list and had been summoned to his local recruitment office.
Beklobat’s story was not an isolated incident. Reports across social media, including Telegram, detail similar situations in which men, for whom summons or mobilization had already been issued, were stopped at passport control in various airports.
On January 23, an amendment to a bill regarding the movement of vehicles on highways for the purpose of crossing the Russian border was recommended for adoption. The change will go into review by the State Duma in February 2023. The updated bill introduces the right of the government to establish checkpoints along the state border, at which individuals will need to digitally reserve a date and time to pass.
Head of the Committee on Transport Yevgeney Moskvichev stated that the proposed measures would apply only to freight trucks, but there was no such clause included in the amendment text.
This amendment requires the government to determine adjacent road sections to the new checkpoints, which will also require a digital permit to travel on. Both Russian and foreign-owned vehicles will be required to pre-register.
Authorities can reject the right of passage if they determine that the applicant has failed to provide sufficient documentation backing up their reasoning for travel.
The government has already introduced electronic checkpoints on a small scale, such as the “Chernyshevskoye” checkpoint at the Russian-Lithuanian border. But the adoption of this amendment would significantly scale the technology starting on March 1, 2023.
The reassuring and particular wording of Kremlin representatives could be an intentional. This tactic promotes a feeling of security amongst Russian citizens while also protecting the validity of the original mobilization law.
As reports about conscription-eligible Russian citizens being denied departure from Russia continue to surface, it may be reasonable to conclude that this is because the original law was never officially repealed. This could also explain why passport control officers like those in Baklobat’s situation referenced the mobilization law.
Adding to the increasing border control pressure is amendment № 183815-8. If adopted, it will allow the government to establish checkpoints along the Russian border from March 1, 2023. Strike Source will continue to monitor the progress of the bill and its potential impact.