Latvia Declares State of Emergency at Border as Russia Mobilizes Troops

Latvia declared a state of emergency near its border with Russia on Wednesday, days after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the mobilization of 300,000 men.

The Latvian government announced the news on its website, saying that it will affect the regions of the country bordering Russia’s Pskov region, as well as airports, border crossing points, ports and railways through December 27.

It comes amid a growing exodus of Russians fleeing the country following Putin’s partial mobilization order, which he announced on September 21. Many citizens have attempted to flee the country by car, train and plane to Russia’s neighboring nations.

The Latvian government said the state of emergency has been imposed “due to the mobilization announced in Russia.”

Reservists drafted during the partial mobilization
Above, reservists drafted during the partial mobilization attend a departure ceremony in Sevastopol, Crimea, on September 27, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on September 21 a mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Russian men to bolster Moscow’s army in Ukraine, sparking demonstrations and an exodus of men abroad.

“With the mobilization announced in Russia, the number of Russian citizens wishing to leave their country has increased significantly. Thus, there is a risk of a rapid increase in the number of illegal migrants on the Latvian-Russian border as well,” the Latvian government said.

“The purpose of emergency measures is to pre-emptively prepare for it,” the statement said, emphasizing that currently, the situation at the border is “stable, calm and under strict control.”

The state of emergency will remain in effect for three months in Latvia’s Aluksne, Balvi and Ludza regions. Latvia will also close its Pededze border crossing “to carry out increased border surveillance and border checks of Russian citizens.”

Long lines of traffic have been seen near Russia’s borders with multiple neighboring countries, including Georgia, which saw a nearly 10-mile build-up of vehicles on Tuesday, according to Maxar Technologies, a U.S. company that created satellite imagery of the traffic line.

An earlier search by Newsweek found that six miles of traffic had built up at Russia’s border with Georgia, the morning after Putin announced a partial military mobilization.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) deployed soldiers and an armored personnel carrier to the country’s border with Georgia on Monday, saying in a statement that it hopes to ensure that reservists do not leave the country “without completing border formalities.”

The developments suggest Russians are fleeing in response to the decree that reservists will be called up to fight in Ukraine. Officials say Putin’s partial mobilization order will affect up to 300,000 reservists.

Latvia also said Wednesday that more border guards are patrolling to prevent illegal crossings.

“We must take precautionary measures in advance, without waiting for the situation to escalate,” Latvia’s Minister of the Interior Kristaps Eklons said in a statement.

Newsweek reached out to Russia’s foreign ministry for comment.

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