Ukraine War: Russian Deserter Asylum in France

The National Court of Asylum considers that Russians who flee their country so as not to have to fight in Ukraine can be welcomed in France, provided that their situation is proven. The doctrine just adopted by the CNDA is based on the study of war crimes committed by the Russian army.

Avoiding young Russians forcibly recruited or mobilized from perpetrating abuses on Ukrainian territory: this is the argument presented by the National Court of Asylum, a court of appeal for refugees. She thus considers that Russians who flee their country so as not to have to fight in Ukraine can be welcomed in France, provided that their situation is proven.

“A Russian national called up as part of this mobilization is likely to directly or indirectly commit war crimes,” said the Court, which is based on a European directive and a judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union. This is the first doctrine in France specifically concerning deserters from the Russian army.

A strong demand

However, this position of France does not automatically grant asylum to all Russians who say they are fleeing conscription. The request of a 28-year-old Russian who presented himself as a deserter has just been rejected by the National Court of Asylum. The magistrates considered that he could not prove to have been mobilized in the context of the war led by Russia in Ukraine.

The young Russian had left his country in 2019 to escape a violent father. He then received two summonses to go to war in Ukraine. But the judges had doubts about his case, especially when they saw that he had been exempted from military service in 2013. At first instance in June, the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) considered that the young man had little chance of being enlisted if he returned to Russia. His lawyer says on the contrary that he is risking a lot.

So, did the fear of being forced into the army cause many Russians to flee their country? Long before the partial mobilization order in Russia – launched on September 21, 2022 – the number of Russian nationals applying for asylum in France had already increased significantly and the trend was confirmed. Other countries like Germany are experiencing the same phenomenon and are providing a comparable response. Asylum is granted to Russians who can demonstrate that they are at risk of being sent to the Ukrainian front. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, tens of thousands of other Russians have found refuge in Georgia, Armenia and Turkey.

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