‘I’ll cross the border tonight’: Russians flee after news of draft Russia

hVladimir Putin surprised Russia by making the first announcement after us mobilization Since World War II, Oleg received his draft papers in the mailbox, ordering him to go to the local recruitment center in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan.

As a 29-year-old sergeant in the Russian reserves, Oleg said he always knew he would be first in line if a mobilization was announced, but hoped he would not be forced to fight in the war. Ukraine,

“My heart sank when I got the call-up,” he said. “But I knew I didn’t have time to despair.”

He quickly packed all his luggage and booked a one-way ticket to Orenburg, a southern Russian city close to the border with Kazakhstan.

“I will go across the border tonight,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday from the airport in Orenburg. “I don’t know when I will step into Russia again,” he said, referring to the prison sentence Russian men face to avoid the draft.

Oleg said that he would leave his wife, who is due to give birth next week. “I will miss the most important day of my life. But I am not just letting Putin kill me in a war in which I want no part.”

The Kremlin’s decision to announce a partial mobilization has caused a rush among military-age men to leave the country, possibly sparking a new, possibly unprecedented brain drain in the coming days and weeks.

The Guardian spoke to more than a dozen men and women who have left Russia since Putin announced a so-called partial mobilization, or who plan to do so over the next few days.

Escape options are limited, he says. Earlier this week, four of the five EU countries bordering Russia announced They will no longer allow Russians to enter on tourist visas.

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Direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul, Yerevan, Tashkent and Baku, the capital of countries allowing visa-free entry to Russians, were sold out for the next week, while the cheapest one-way flight from Moscow to Dubai cost about 370,000 rubles. (£5,000). ) – too much charge for most.

And so many, like Oleg, were forced to get creative and drive on some of the land borders still open to Russians.

Border guards in Finland, the last EU country to still allow entry to Russians with tourist visas, said that they have seen An “extraordinary number” of Russian citizens tried to cross the border overnight, while eyewitnesses also said the Russian-Georgian and Russian-Mongolian borders were “collapsed” with heavy traffic.

Ira Lobanovskaya said, “We are witnessing an even greater exodus than when the war began.” “Guide to the Free World” NGO, which helps Russians leave the country against the war.

He said that his website has been viewed more than one and a half million times since Putin’s speech on Wednesday. According to Lobanovskaya’s estimates, more than 70,000 Russians using the group’s services have already left or have concrete plans to leave.

“These are the people who are buying one-way tickets. As long as the mobilization continues, they will not come back.

Many of those who are still in Russia will feel that time is running out. At least three regions have already announced that they will close their borders to eligible men for the draft.

Border agents at Russian airports have also reportedly begun questioning departing male passengers about their military service status and checking return tickets.

Thousands of Russians rallied against the war and mobilization on Wednesday, with some taking to social media to criticize protesters at a time when their country’s military was committing human rights abuses in Bucha, Irpin and countless other cities in Ukraine.

Policemen detaining protesters in central St. Petersburg
Policemen proceed to detain participants of an unauthorized protest against partial mobilization in central Saint Petersburg, Russia, on Wednesday. Photo: Anatoly Maltsev/EPA

“I understand the frustration of people,” said Igor, a 26-year-old IT professional from St. Petersburg, who plans to fly next week to Vladikavkaz and head to Georgia, another popular escape route used by Russians. “I participated in anti-war protests when Putin launched his offensive, but the authorities jailed everyone.”

Some protesters detained in Moscow have been given draft notices during the lockdown monitoring group ovd, Further underlying the dangers facing the average Russian when taking to the streets.

“I think the only way to personally help Ukraine is not to fight there,” Igor said.

there has also been Call To support the Russians for the European Union who are looking for a way out of the draft.

EU Commission on Home Affairs spokesperson, Anita Hipper, said the bloc would meet to discuss the issuance of humanitarian visas to Russians fleeing Russia. The three Baltic states said on Thursday, however, that they are not prepared to automatically grant asylum to Russians fleeing the draft.

Even people with no military experience – people who vowed not to call Putin – are packing their bags.

Russian police detaining a protester
Russian police detained a protester against partial mobilization. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

They point to the ambiguity of Putin’s mobilization law and point to past broken promises that he would not call for one.

“Putin lied that there would be no mobilization,” said 23-year-old Anton, a student in Moscow, discussing In the President’s International Women’s Day address on March 8, when he insisted that no reservists would be called to fight in Ukraine. “Why won’t he lie again about this partial mobilization?”

Fears mount since independent website Novaya Gazeta Europe informed ofBased on its government sources, that mobilization decree allows the defense ministry to call 100,000 people instead of the 300,000 announced on Wednesday by the country’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu.

For now, Lobanovskaya said, most of the Russians who left are men.

The Guardian also spoke to several women, mostly medics, who similarly decided to leave the country after reports began to surface that Russia was calling on health professionals.

“I know that doctors should treat people, it is our duty,” said Tatyana, a doctor from Irkutsk, who bought a plane ticket to Baku next week. “But I believe it is terrible. The sooner the war stops, the less people will die.”

The mobilization also appears to have frightened some of the people on whom the regime depends to sustain its war effort.

“For me, mobilization is the red line,” said 29-year-old Ilya, a mid-level official working for the Moscow government. “Tomorrow I will be in Kazakhstan.”

The son of a West-sanctioned oligarch due back to Russia after studying abroad to work for his family business, one man said he no longer planned to do so.

“Well, one thing is clear,” he said in a brief interview by text message. “I won’t be back to Russia any time soon.”

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