“What is the point of fleeing a country at war for another country at war? Armenia, an unstable refuge for the Russians

He holds back, but since he sees his compatriots arriving en masse to escape the “partial” military mobilization in Russia, the question burns his lips: “Guys, where have you been for the past seven months? » Evgeniy, 31, is part of the first wave of Russians who came to Armenia after the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24. This young artist and entrepreneur opposed to the war fled Russia on March 4 for Yerevan, the Armenian capital – those whose names are not mentioned wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

He knew nothing about Armenia, had no friends there and vaguely knew that a conflict opposed the country to Azerbaijan, nothing more. Today, this former Muscovite in flip-flops and yellow glasses manages one of the most prominent café-clubs in the Armenian capital, Tuf, with his friend Karina, 27, who joined him at the end of March. “I integrated well, I have many Armenian friends”he assures between two bites at the bar, topped with a kitty for the Ukrainians.

Evgeniy seated at the bar of the Tuf Club in central Yerevan on September 27, 2022.

For the past few days, the place, with its bohemian decor and sky-high prices for locals, has also become one of the informal reception platforms for “second wave” Russians, those fleeing the “partial” mobilization decreed September 21 by Vladimir Putin. A little everywhere, networks of solidarity are organized between these compatriots. “We try not to judge them but to help them find housing and a job, and show them that they are not alone”explains Evgeniy.

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Outside, two young Russians wait in front of the café-club in shirts, looking stunned. They arrived the day before. “Those arriving now are much more scared than those in the first wave”, explains Karina. This opponent of war also advises, from a distance, more than 600 volunteers departing from Russia, and patiently answers all questions, however unpleasant they may be in her eyes. “Some people ask me: ‘Do I have to remove my Z sticker? [la lettre est un signe de soutien à l’offensive russe en Ukraine] before coming ?” »

In front of the entrance to the Tuf Club, in Yerevan, on September 27, 2022.

Russia, a traditional ally of Armenia

Since the start of the invasion in Ukraine, an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Russians have arrived in Armenia, but the pace is picking up in recent days. The impact of this influx is all the greater and immediate as this small country in the Caucasus, landlocked between Turkey and Azerbaijan, has only 3 million inhabitants.

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