Russia said it would exempt some bankers, IT workers and journalists from military service in Ukraine as part of a partial mobilization announced by President Vladimir Putin, as the men fled across the border in droves to avoid conscription.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday that Russia is seeking to bring in 300,000 additional troops to bolster its military in Ukraine.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that some workers in critical industries would be excluded from the bill, with the aim of “ensuring the operation of specific high-tech industries as well as the Russian financial system.”
Exemptions apply to some IT workers, telecommunications workers, financial professionals, as well as workers of some “systemically important” mass media outlets and interdependent suppliers, including registered media and broadcasters.
Russia classifies major employers and core companies in certain industries as “systemically important” if they meet certain thresholds for the number of employees, revenues or annual tax payments.
The classification allows companies to receive special benefits from the Kremlin, such as government-guaranteed loans, aid packages and state investments, most recently seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Media outlets previously classified as such include a number of state television channels, radio stations, news agencies and newspapers, as well as some of Russia’s few privately owned media outlets.
According to the Ministry of Defense, company managers should prepare lists of their employees who meet the criteria and may be exempted from the draft.
Russia’s central bank welcomed the move to exclude some financial professionals from recruitment and said some of its staff met the relevant criteria.
“Employees working in critical areas will remain in their positions so that the financial system can continue to function smoothly, people can receive salaries, pensions and social benefits on time, card payments and transfers work, and new loans can be issued,” the central bank said in a statement.
Escape from military service
Putin’s mobilization order followed weeks of speculation over how Russia would respond to the conflict, now in its eighth month, in which Kiev and the West say Russia has suffered tens of thousands of casualties.
Russia’s independent monitoring group OVD-Info reported that men detained at nationwide anti-war rallies following the mobilization announcement were given draft papers in at least 15 Moscow police stations while in custody.
A day before the Kremlin’s announcement, the Russian parliament approved a draft law that toughens the punishment for those who refuse military service or desert.
The bill, which has yet to be signed, provides for a prison sentence of five to 15 years.
Traffic in Finland across the Russian border remained heavy on Friday.
According to border guards who spoke to the Reuters news agency, about 7,000 people traveled from Russia to Finland on Thursday, including about 6,000 Russians, which represents a 107 percent increase compared to the same day a week earlier.
In Vaalimaa, which has the heaviest traffic, cars lined up for up to 400 meters, which is a longer queue than on Thursday, the border official said.
Helsinki announced on Friday that it would significantly restrict the entry of Russian nationals in the coming days after seeing a doubling of the flow over the eastern border.
“Those who cross the border only for reasons related to tourism are prohibited from entering,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters.
This applies to Russians traveling with a tourist visa issued by Finland as well as another Schengen country, Haavisto said.
The reason is that Finland causes “serious damage to its international position”, unlike the Baltic states, which have classified tourism from Russia as a security threat.
Latvia has also advised that it will not offer asylum or refuge to people fleeing Russia.