Humanitarian crisis at Russian border with Latvia

Photo: Anadolu Agency/ GettyImages

Russian border guards on the Russian-Latvian border are letting through small numbers of Ukrainian refugees, while hundreds of people exposed to the cold are waiting in line, the Lithuanian Delfi news website reported.

Hundreds of people are waiting for days in an open-air queue to cross the Russian-Latvian border on foot, Delfi reports, citing accounts from refugees and volunteers. People are sleeping on cardboard boxes, pallets and oilcloth. While Russian guards let Russian and EU citizens through relatively quickly, in a separate queue, they clear only a few Ukrainian refugees a day.

Volunteers from the Rubikus organisation, which helps Ukrainians leave Russia for Europe, say that two people, including an 80-year-old woman, have already died while waiting to get through the border.

“There is hell at the borders, and people are in that hell. Russian checkpoints let literally a few people through a day. In Burachki (the crossing point on the Russian-Latvian border, on the Russian side) there is a real humanitarian catastrophe,” Svetlana Vodolozskaya, a Rubikus volunteer, stressed.

Situation on Russian border with Estonia also bad

Diana, a Ukrainian refugee, who has already reached Riga, crossed the Russian-Estonian border at Shumilkino point on October 1. She chose this route because the queues there are a bit shorter than at the border with Latvia.

Diana said that the border guards used “collective punishment”, meaning, if someone crossed the line beyond which no one was allowed to enter, the queue was halted and no one was allowed through for four hours.

On the other side of the border, Estonian volunteers were already waiting. “There is already a place for Ukrainian refugees there, with food, hot drinks and places to sleep. There is nothing on the Russian side,” Diana stated.

The situation at the Russian-Estonian border is also being reported by the independent Russian TV channel Dodzhd, which published a video showing long queues at the border.

According to Delfi, the situation at the Shumilkino crossing has begun to improve in recent days.