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- At least five Russian men have been living at South Korea’s Incheon airport for months.
- The men managed to avoid being drafted to fight in Ukraine, reports The Washington Post.
- Vladimir Maraktaev, 23, told the Post he didn’t want to hurt people or get involved in Putin’s war.
Several Russian men who escaped conscription in the war in Ukraine have been living for months at Incheon International Airport in Seoul, waiting for the South Korean government to decide their fate.
Vladimir Maraktaev, 23, a university student from the Republic of Buryatia in Siberia, said The Washington Post he was drafted on September 24 and fled the same day.
Although they arrived in Seoul separately, Maraktaev and four other Russians have been living together in Incheon’s Terminal 1 for weeks. The men told the Post that their lives were at stake: Seoul could still reject their asylum request. Three of the five men will know on January 31 if their candidacies are accepted.
“I don’t want to hurt people. I don’t want to die myself either. But I think this conflict is extremely political,” Maraktaev told the Post. “It is an imperialist war in my opinion, the conquest of a neighboring fraternal nation.”
Talk to Korea time in January, Maraktaev said he fled Russia by driving through Mongolia. He first flew from Ulaanbaatar to Manila, where he stayed for several weeks. Maraktaev then managed to secure a flight to South Korea, and he eventually landed in Incheon on November 12.
However, Maraktaev – like other Russians The Post spoke to – was refused entry to Korea and not allowed to leave the airport. They remain stuck in the terminal, washing their clothes in a bathroom sink.
According to The Post, the Russians are being held in a room in the airport’s departure lounge. They receive three meals a day: a pastry and orange juice for breakfast and dinner, and a meal of rice and chicken at noon.
South Korea hosts just over 1% of refugees
South Korean refugee laws do not consider avoiding military conscription a valid reason for seeking asylum, Lee Jong-chan, the Russian men’s lawyer, told the Post. This complicated their trip to the country, and they could be deported and repatriated to Russia.
South Korea has a low refugee acceptance rate. In 2021, only 1% of asylum seekers were accepted, by Statistical. The pandemic years of 2019 and 2020 saw 0.4% of refugees accepted per year. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugeesmost refugees on humanitarian visas in South Korea come from Syria and Yemen.
“If you look at how they interview asylum seekers, it looks like officials are focused on screening them,” said Kim Yeon-joo, a lawyer at the Seoul-based Nancen Refugee Center. The Korea Times. “In most cases, claimants are denied the opportunity to apply for legal aid and left to prove the persecution they might face in their home country.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on September 21 partial military mobilizationrecruiting 300,000 Russian reservists to fight in Ukraine. The Associated Press reported in September that more than 194,000 Russian nationals had fled to neighboring countries the week the plan was announced.
In November, US Army General Mark Milley estimated that 100,000 Russian soldiers had been killed or wounded since the war began on February 24. The war has now reached its eleventh month.
Maraktaev did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.