Home / News / ‘Desperation at border’: Why are Russians fleeing country after Vladimir Putin’s address?

Hundreds of Russians have gathered at the borders of Russia, scrambling to make it across the border. One-way tickets out of Russia are all sold out even though the flights were rocketing in price. The exodus of Russians began after President Vladimir Putin announced a military call-up of 300,000 reservists as Moscow seeks to replenish depleted Russian forces, triggering fear that they would be forced to participate in Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin's announcement, made in an early-morning television address, raised fears that some men of fighting age would not be allowed to leave the country. And avoiding the draft is a criminal offence.

PANIC DEMAND INCREASES

Direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul in Turkey and Yerevan in Armenia, both destinations that allow Russians to enter without a visa, were sold out on Wednesday, according to Aviasales data. Flights from Moscow to Istanbul via Turkish Airlines were either all booked or unavailable until Sunday.

A Russian recruit hugs his mother at a military recruitment center in Volgograd, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered a partial mobilization of reservists to beef up his forces in Ukraine. (AP Photo)
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A Russian recruit hugs his mother at a military recruitment center in Volgograd, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered a partial mobilization of reservists to beef up his forces in Ukraine. (AP Photo) (AP)

According to a report, some routes with stopovers were also unavailable. As more tickets out of Russia were being searched, tickets to cheapest flights to Dubai cost more than $5,000 ( 4,06,277) -- about five times the average monthly wage. One-way fares to Turkey also shot up to almost $1,150 ( 93,443), Google Flights data showed.

A tourism industry source has said that the demand for flight tickets from Russia for visa-free countries has jumped. “That's a panic demand from people, who are afraid that they won't be able to leave the country afterwards," he said.

‘HAD TO LEAVE RIGHT AWAY’

Ivan told CNN that he was an officer in Russia’s reserves and left his country for Belarus immediately after Vladimir Putin’s address. Why? Because “I don't support what's going on, so I just decided that I had to leave right away."

"I felt like the doors are closing and if I didn't leave immediately, I might not be able to leave later," Ivan said.

Dmitri left his wife and children and flew to Armenia, to avoid serving in the war against Ukraine. "I don't want to go to the war," Dmitri told AFP.

A lot of people have already been called up. A night before Vladimir Putin’s address, two men wearing civilian clothes arrived at 26-year-old lecturer’s house asking him to sign the military papers.

A Russian Orthodox priest blesses a group of recruits at a military recruitment center in Volgograd, Russia after President Putin ordered a partial mobilization of reservists to beef up his forces in Ukraine
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A Russian Orthodox priest blesses a group of recruits at a military recruitment center in Volgograd, Russia after President Putin ordered a partial mobilization of reservists to beef up his forces in Ukraine (AP)

Another Russian, Oleg, who also received the call and has served as a sergeant in the Russian forces, said his heart sank after getting the call. “But I knew I had no time to despair," he said, adding that he quickly packed up his belongings and booked a flight to Orenburg, closer to Kazakhstan.

“I will be driving across the border tonight. I have no idea when I’ll step foot in Russia again," he said.

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