Putin’s military mobilisation sparks ‘exodus from Russia’

Some Russian men rushed to the borders yesterday after President Vladimir Putin ordered partial mobilization, with traffic at the border crossings with Finland and Georgia soaring and airline ticket prices from Moscow skyrocketing.

Putin yesterday ordered Russia’s first mobilization since World War II and backed a plan to annex parts of Ukraine, warning the West he was not bluffing when he said he was ready to defend Russia with nuclear weapons.

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Airline ticket prices from Moscow soared to over $5,000 for one-way tickets to the nearest foreign locations, with most airfare tickets completely sold out for the coming days.

Social media groups emerged with advice on how to get out of Russia, while one news site gave a list in Russian of “where to run away from Russia right now”. There were long traffic jams at the border crossings with Georgia.

Meanwhile, Russian police arrested more than 1,300 people in Russia amid anti-mobilization protests on Wednesday, a rights group said.

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Despite the reported arrests, the anti-war protest movement Vesna (Spring) is calling for more protests across Russia tomorrow.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday called for Putin to be held accountable as he confronted Russia at a Security Council meeting where the United Nations cataloged abuses in Ukraine.

“The very international order that we are gathered here to uphold is being shredded before our eyes,” Blinken told the Security Council in a special session as leaders met at the United Nations.

“We cannot – we will not allow – President Putin to get away with it,” he said.

Blinken accused Putin of adding “fuel to the fire” with recent moves, including calling up reservists and planning referendums in Russian-controlled Ukrainian territory.

The top US diplomat said it was crucial to show that “no nation can redraw the borders of another by force”.

Opening the session, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the UN judicial body “saw a catalog of atrocities – summary executions, sexual violence, torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment of civilians and prisoners of war.

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“War is terrible,” Sergei, a Russian who declined to give his last name, told Reuters upon arrival in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. “It’s okay to be afraid of war and death and things like that.”

A Russian man, who gave his name as Alex, told Reuters in Istanbul that he left Russia partly because of the mobilization.

“The partial mobilization is one of the reasons I’m here,” he said. “It seems like a very bad move and it can cause a lot of problems for many Russians.”

He said he felt that not many Russians wanted to be sent into battle.

Another Russian, who gave his name only as Vasily, arrived in Istanbul with his wife, teenage daughter and six suitcases.

“The mobilization was inevitable due to a lack of personnel. I’m not worried because I’m already 59 years old and my son lives abroad,” he said.

A truck driver who crossed the Russian-Kazakh border near the Kazakh city of Oral on Thursday told Reuters he saw unusually heavy traffic coming from the Russian side. He asked not to be identified, fearing it might complicate his future journey.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said reports of an exodus of draft-age men were exaggerated. Asked about reports that men arrested at anti-war protests were handed a draft paper, Peskov said it was not against the law.

Around 10,000 volunteers have turned up to report for Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine without waiting for draft papers issued as part of a partial mobilization, Russian news agencies reported, citing the Russian General Staff.

Russian state pollsters say more than 70 percent of Russians support what the Kremlin calls the “military special operation,” though polls leaked in July showed an even split between those who wanted to end or continue the fight.

The war in Ukraine has killed tens of thousands, sent inflation through the global economy and sparked a deepening confrontation with the West.

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