Ukraine LIVE: Chechens flee Russia in droves to reach Bosnia in bid to escape war

Scores of Chechens have amassed near near Bosnia’s northwestern border with EU member state Croatia in a bid to escape Putin’s war on Ukraine.

“They want to reach the European Union because, in their own words, they are fleeing military draft”, the Bosnian Security Ministry said.

Russians can enter Bosnia without a visa and are permitted to stay in the country for a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day period. But to enter Croatia, which is set to join Europe’s visa-free travel zone, the Schengen Area, on Jan. 1, they must hold a valid visa.

The ethnic Chechens gathered near the Maljevac border crossing, in the northwest Bosnia’s Krajina region include families with children. Many of the people waiting said they hoped to be allowed into Croatia. However, Croatian border guards mostly appeared to be turning them back.

According to Bosnian media, the Chechens arrived in Bosnia from Turkey and Serbia, the only two countries in Europe with direct flights from Russia during the war.

The Security Ministry said it would “continue to monitor the situation on the ground and gather detailed information from law enforcement agencies … to propose appropriate measures to maintain a secure situation.”

Bosnia became a bottleneck for Europe-bound migrants from the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa in 2015, when other nations in the Balkans and central Europe closed off previously established migration paths in the region.

Isa Daduyev from the Assembly of Chechens of Europe, said: “The biggest issue is mobilisation into the army to participate in the war in Ukraine. If you refuse to join the army you face a prison sentence.”