After Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday a partial mobilization of additional troops to fight in Ukraine, a climate of unrest settled in Russia.
Putin said some 300,000 reservists will be called up to reinforce Russian troops who have suffered recent battlefield setbacks on Ukrainian soil.
Following the announcement, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in different Russian cities and more than 1,000 ended up in detention.
In this context, rather than protest, it seems that many Russians are considering leaving their country to avoid being sent to the front lines.
An example of this is that airline tickets abroad, to destinations where Russians do not require a visa, have sold out or have reached astronomical prices.
Direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul in Turkey and Yerevan in Armenia sold out on Wednesday, with no more available until next Sunday, according to data from Aviasales, Russia’s most popular flight booking site.
Some routes with stopovers, including those from Moscow to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, were also unavailable, while cheapest flights to dubai They cost more than 300,000 rubles (about US $ 5,000), detailed the Reuters agency.
Another popular destination among Russians is the Serbian capital, Belgrade, where Russian citizens are not required to have a visa either. That route was also collapsed due to the demand for tickets, several media outlets point out.
After Putin announced the partial mobilization of troops, conversations on Telegram dedicated to leaving Russia began to fill with messages asking if men were being allowed to leave the country through land borders, the service was able to confirm. BBC Russian.
“We were worried about how we would cross the border. But there were no problems, there were no queues,” Alexander, who left his country through the checkpoint in Vladikavkaz and entered Georgia.
According to him, he and three friends left Russia by car. Two of them are men aged 35 and 29.
Alexander and one of his friends are reservists but, according to him, the Russian border guards were not interested in that information on Wednesday.
“Nobody asked anything. They asked the usual questions: plans for Georgia and so on. So far no problems,” she said.
To Valeria (name changed at her request) and her husband of 33 years as well they were allowed to cross into Georgia without any questions. According to her, they crossed the border at 12:30 local time on Wednesday.
“They didn’t ask anything at all, we passed very quickly, everything took an hour, there are no traffic jams, but I think the situation will change at night,” he said.
According to the woman, she and her husband were traveling to Georgia for their honeymoon and did not plan to leave Russia for good. But after the announcement of the partial mobilization, they are no longer sure of this: “Now everything is incomprehensible.”
Peter, 30, (who asked not to use his real name), told the BBC that he went through passport control at St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport and was waiting for a flight to Istanbul. He bought a ticket a long time ago, he assured.
At the border, according to him, no one asked if he was subject to registration for military service and the mobilization announced by Putin.
Can men leave Russia?
Neither President Vladimir Putin in his speech on Wednesday nor Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said anything about whether men subject to partial mobilization would be barred from leaving Russia.
Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that he could not yet answer the question whether the borders would be closed for those who are subject to partial mobilization and promised to clarify this issue.
“There are different provisions on this subject in the current laws. Let’s have a little patience. Explanations on this matter will follow,” the Kremlin representative was quoted as saying by the Interfax agency.
The head of the Russian Federal Tourism Agency, Zarina Doguzova, wrote on her Telegram channel that no additional restrictions have been introduced for Russians to travel abroad at the moment.
The lawyers interviewed by the Russian service of the BBC they are not entirely sure if the law prohibits men from traveling abroad in conditions of partial mobilization.
For the lawyer Alexander Peredruk “the restriction applies to all people who are registered in the armed forces, regardless of whether they are subject to recruitment for mobilization or not.”
“It is not known how this restriction will work in practice and whether foreign travel will be restricted. I have seen public statements from officials that there will be no restrictions, but the law clearly defines that it is forbidden to go out without special permission, ”he explains.
For now, there is no law in Russia under which those who fall under partial mobilization can be prohibited from leaving the countryaffirmed for his part the lawyer Arseniy Levinson.
Russian law does not specify the sex of the citizens who must be mobilized.
Women who have not served in combat ground units can be called up for military service if they are registered with the military and have a specialty in categories such as computer engineering, medicine, or printing and mapping, among others. (YO)
*With reporting by Amaliya Zatari of BBC Russia in Moscow.