Thu, 30 Nov 2023

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- As Russians escaping a partial military mobilization in their homeland drank their morning coffee in a cinema that opened its doors for them in northwestern Kazakhstan, Central Asia was waking up to yet more fallout from Moscow's bloody war in Ukraine.

Almost a week into the drive for soldiers that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on September 21 in response to a tide-shifting Ukrainian counteroffensive, sightings of Russians wandering the streets of cities throughout the region with backpacks and lost expressions have become commonplace.

So, too, have lengthening lines at the state borders that Russian citizens can still cross without visas, as reports that Moscow may soon move to close off the exits -- at least to men of fighting age -- deepen the panic.

For the moment, traditions of regional hospitality are holding up in Central Asian host countries that are now witnessing a second wave of Russian guests since the invasion began on February 24.

In Oral, the Kazakh city where a movie theater called Cinema Park provided shelter for around 200 Russians over the weekend, RFE/RL correspondents saw local residents dole out free bowls of pilaf, or plov, for Russians gathering at the city train station.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036

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