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Russians Fleeing the Draft Find an Unlikely Haven in Kyrgyzstan

Rents are skyrocketing, luxury hotels and grimy hostels don’t have beds to spare. And on the dusty, sunny streets of Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, bands of young migrants, nearly all men, wander aimlessly, dazed at their world turned upside down — and their hasty, self-imposed exile to a poor, remote country that few could previously place on a map.

After leaving often well-paying jobs and families in Moscow and Vladivostok and many places in between, tens of thousands of young Russians — terrified of being dragooned into fighting in Ukraine — are pouring into Central Asia by plane, car and bus.

The influx has turned a country long scorned in Russia as a source of cheap labor and backward ways into an unlikely and, for the most part, welcoming haven for Russian men, some poor, many relatively affluent and highly educated — but all united by a desperate desire to escape being caught up in President Vladimir V. Putin’s war in Ukraine.

“I look up at the clear sky every day and give thanks that I am here,” said Denis, an events organizer from Moscow who on Friday joined scores of fellow Russians at a bar in Bishkek to rejoice at their escape and trade tips on places to sleep, getting Kyrgyz residency papers and finding work.

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