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A total of 464 Russian citizens have arrived in Spain to request international protection since the start of the war in Ukraine​. Almost half of them are men of military age who have applied for asylum for "fear of conscription or desertion", sources from the Spanish National Police told broadcaster Cadena SER on Monday. According to these sources, most arrive in the Spanish state by road, although some apply for asylum at Madrid's Barajas airport itself after arriving on a tourist visa. Apart from the young people who fear being drafted and the repression of Vladimir Putin's regime if they refuse to do so, there are also members of the LGTBI+ collective arriving who fearing reprisals from the government for their sexual orientation or identity. In Russia ,  military desertion can be punished by execution.

Russian defectors seek refuge in Spain from the war in Ukraine

At least one of the soldiers who asked Spain for refugee status was part of the same Russian army brigade that was accused of perpetrating the massacre in Bucha, north of Kyiv, in the first weeks of the invasion. Thus, the situation is delicate, because even though Brussels has expressed its willingness to welcome Russian conscientious objectors and people opposed to the Putin regime, there is also real concern about letting spies and saboteurs working for the Kremlin into Europe. This is the reason why many countries bordering Russia have refused to let in any Russian citizens since the war broke out in Ukraine. Despite everything, and probably because of the physical distance with Russia, the Spanish state is one of the European countries that has received fewest asylum applications from Russian citizens.

Does Europe want to host Russian defectors?

The prolongation of the war in Ukraine and the beginning of draft call-ups in Russia has meant another challenge for the European Union. Apart from the mobilization of reservists at the end of the summer, the routine recruitment of young men for military service in autumn is now underway. In September, the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, came out in favour of the European Union granting visas to all those Russian citizens who are conscientious objectors who refuse to fight in the war. Likewise, the European leader believes that the bloc must open its doors to Russian defectors, to those "who do not want to be instrumentalized by the Kremlin", as he detailed in an interview with the American newspaper Politico. "The European Union should welcome those who are in danger because of their political views. If people in Russia are in danger because of their political views, because they do not go along with this disastrous decision of the Kremlin to wage war in Ukraine, we must take that into account," he said.