Border traffic jams and frustration as Russians flee Putin’s ‘partial mobilization’

for Ivan, a man who said he is An official in Russia’s reserves and left his country for Belarus on Thursday, the motivation was clear: “I don’t support what’s happening, so I just decided I had to leave immediately,” he told CNN.

“I felt like the doors were closing and if I didn’t leave immediately, I wouldn’t be able to leave later,” Ivan said, thinking of a close friend coming back home with two young children. which was the opposite. Unable to pack and go.

Alexey, 29, who arrived in Georgia via bus from Russia on Thursday, told CNN the decision was due to his roots.

“(Half) of my family is Ukrainian… I’m not in reserve right now for this wave of mobilization, but I think if it continues, all men will qualify,” he said.

Cars queue to enter the Brusnichoye checkpoint on the Russian-Finnish border in the Leningrad region of Russia on September 22.
Putin announced on Wednesday that 300,000 reservists would be drafted, as Moscow seeks to replenish depleted forces after a successful counter-offensive From Kyiv this month. The move is set to change the scope of Russia’s invasion from an offensive largely fought by volunteers, engaging a large swath of its population.

The announcement triggered a scuffle for some Russians, with social media chatter on platforms like Telegram trying to figure out how to get seats in vehicles headed to the borders, some even on bicycles. discussed.

According to video footage, long traffic lines have been seen at land border crossings in many countries. Images on Kazakh media websites appeared to show supported vehicles near the Russia-Kazakhstan border. In one posted by Kazakh media outlet Tengri News, a man can be heard saying that his vehicle is “at a standstill for 10 hours” in Russia’s Saratov region as they try to make their way to Kazakhstan. trying.

“Endless cars. Everyone is running. Everyone is running away from Russia,” the person in the video can be heard saying. CNN cannot independently verify the video.

On Thursday, Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee issued a statement saying the borders were “under special control” but were operating normally amid “an increase in the number of foreign nationals” entering the country. The country’s state revenue committee said in a separate statement that there has been a 20% increase in the number of passenger vehicles entering Kazakhstan from Russia since September 21.

According to Finland’s border guard, traffic on Finland’s eastern border with Russia intensified overnight on Thursday. Earlier that day, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told parliament that her government was ready to take action to “end” Russian tourism and transit through Finland, according to Finnish public broadcaster Yale.

Many of those who went were men. Women are not part of Russia’s recruiting.

Travel agency websites also showed a dramatic increase in demand For flights to places where Russians do not need a visa. Flight sales websites indicated that direct flights to such countries were sold out at least as of Friday, while anecdotal reports indicated that people were having trouble finding ways to travel far beyond that deadline.

At least two Russians leaving the country, one via land and one by air, told CNN that the departing men were being questioned by Russian officials, including whether they had military training. Tha and others were about Russia and Ukraine.

“It was like a regular passport control, but everyone in the queue was stopped and asked additional questions. They took us to a room and asked questions mainly about (our) army (training),” Vadim, a Russian who arrived in Georgia by air, told CNN.

start mobilization

The mobilization within Russia’s borders, which was targeting some escape, was already underway.

Social media videos showed the first phase of partial mobilization in several Russian regions far away from Russia’s affluent metropolitan areas, particularly in the Caucasus and the Far East.

In the Russian Far Eastern city of Nerungi, families said goodbye to a large group of men as they boarded buses, as seen in footage posted to a community video channel. Several people are seen emotional in the video, in which a woman is crying and saying goodbye to her husband by hugging him, while he reaches out to hold his daughter’s hand from the window of the bus.

Russian families say goodbye as men leave for military service in Neryungri, Sakha Republic, Russia.

Another shows a group of about 100 newly mobilized soldiers waiting at Magadan airport in the Russian Far East, next to a transport plane. Telegram video shows another mobilized group of men waiting for transport to Amginsky Ulysse in the region of Yakutia, a vast Siberian region.

A crowd had gathered near the city of Belgorod, very close to the Ukrainian border, to watch a group of newly mobilized men. As they board a bus, a boy shouts “Goodbye, Daddy!” And starts crying. CNN has not been able to independently verify the video.

In other scenes that circulated on social media, tensions over the recruitment were high.

In Dagestan in the Caucasus, according to a video, a fierce argument broke out in a recruiting office. A woman said that her son had been fighting since February. One man said that he should not have sent him, he replied: “Your grandfather fought so that you can survive,” to which the man replied: “First it was war, now it’s politics.”

disobedience and detention

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday called on Russia to oppose partial military mobilization.

Thousands of Russian soldiers “killed in this war in six months. Thousands are wounded and crippled. Want more? No? Then protest. Fight back. Run. Or surrender in Ukrainian captivity. These are your options for survival.” ,” Zelensky said in his daily video address to his country.

Addressing anti-war protests across Russia on Wednesday, the Ukrainian leader said: “(The Russian people) understand that they have been betrayed.”

But dissent in Russia is generally swiftly quelled and authorities have imposed further restrictions on free speech after the invasion of Ukraine.

police broke down fast Wednesday’s demonstrations, which were mostly small-scale protests. Authorities detained more than 1,300 people in at least 38 cities, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info.

Some of those protesters were immediately drafted into the military after their arrests, according to group spokeswoman Maria Kuznetsova, who told CNN by phone on Wednesday that some of the protesters arrested at at least four police stations in Moscow had been arrested. was being recruited.

Earlier this week, Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, amended the law on military service, setting prison terms of up to 15 years for violations of military service duties – such as abandonment from service and evasion from service. According to the state news agency TASS.

Reservoir Ivan, who spoke to CNN after leaving the country this week, described a sense of despair felt by many in Russia in the wake of recent events.

“It feels bad because a lot of my friends, a lot of people don’t support war and they feel threatened by what’s happening, and there’s really no democratic way to stop it, even.” Even to declare his protest.” Told.

Yulia Kesaiva, Lauren Kent, Sugam Pokharel and Anastasia Graham Yule contributed to this report.

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