A view shows a mural painted in support of the Russian army in Moscow
A man smokes while walking past a mural, which was painted on a multi-story building in support of the Russian army, in Moscow on Thursday. Photo: Reuters/EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA

Russian draft prompts exodus by some men as air fares jump

By Jake Cordell and Essi Lehto

Some Russian men headed swiftly to the borders on Thursday after President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization, with traffic at frontier crossings with Finland and Georgia surging and prices for air tickets from Moscow rocketing.

Putin on Wednesday ordered Russia's first mobilization since World War II and backed a plan to annex swathes of Ukraine, warning the West he was not bluffing when he said he'd be ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia.

Prices for air tickets out of Moscow soared above $5,000 for one-way tickets to the nearest foreign locations, with most air tickets sold out completely for coming days.

Social media groups popped up with advice on how to get out of Russia while one news site in Russian gave a list of "where to run away right now from Russia." There were long tailbacks at border crossings with Georgia.

"War is horrible," Sergei, a Russian who declined to give his surname, told Reuters as he arrived in Belgrade, the Serbian capital. "It's okay to be afraid of war and of death and such things."

One Russian man who gave his name as Alex told Reuters in Istanbul that he had left Russia partly due to the mobilization.

"The partial mobilization is one of the reasons why I am here," he said. "A very poor step it seems to be, and it can lead to lots of problems to lots of Russians."

He said he felt that not many Russians would want to be sent to fight.

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

"The mobilization was inevitable because there was a shortage of human resources. I am 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 on Thursday near the Kazakh city of Oral told Reuters he saw unusually heavy traffic from the Russian side. He asked not to be identified, fearing that might complicate his future travel.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that reports of an exodus of draft-age men were exaggerated. Asked about reports that men detained at anti-war protests were being given draft papers, Peskov said it was not against the law.

Some 10,000 volunteers have turned up to enlist for Russia's military campaign in Ukraine without waiting for call-up papers issued under a partial mobilization, Russian news agencies reported, citing the Russian General Staff.

Russian state-owned pollsters say that more than 70% of Russians support what the Kremlin calls the "special military operation", though polling leaked in July showed an even split between those who wanted to fighting to stop or continue.

The war in Ukraine has killed tens of thousands, unleashed an inflationary wave through the global economy and triggered deepening confrontation with the West.

A tourism industry source told Reuters that there was desperation as people sought to find air tickets out of Russia.

"This is panic demand from people who are afraid they won't be able to leave the country later - people are buying tickets not caring where they fly to," the source said.

Finland said on Thursday it was considering barring most Russians from entering as traffic across the border from its eastern neighbor increased after Putin's order.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin said the government was assessing risks posed by individuals traveling through Finland, and was considering ways to sharply reduce Russian transit.

Traffic arriving at the border "intensified" overnight and remained elevated into daytime hours on Thursday, the Finnish Border Guard said.


"The number clearly has picked up," the Finnish border guard's head of international affairs, Matti Pitkaniitty, told Reuters, adding the situation was under control.

At 5:30 p.m. at the Vaalimaa crossing, three hours' drive from Russia's St Petersburg, traffic continued to flow, according to a Reuters witness, with cars stretching over four lanes, each for some 150 meters.

Russia's Aeroflot said it would refund people who were unable to fly as planned because they had received a call-up.

Russian police detained more than 1,300 people in Russia on Wednesday at protests against mobilization, a rights group said.

Despite the reported arrests, the anti-war protest movement Vesna (Spring) urged more protests across Russia on Saturday.

"In order for the protest to end with the fall of the regime, the number of protesters must grow. We need to get more and more people out, and for this we need your help. Otherwise, nothing will work," it said on its Telegram channel.

"In the end, getting a fine or a few days of arrest is better than getting a funeral."

© Thomson Reuters 2022.

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.


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“The Western establishment and, in general, all citizens of the NATO countries need to understand that Russia has chosen its own path,” Mr. Medvedev wrote on his Telegram channel. “There is no way back.”

Yes Medvedev , Russia has chosen its own path. A path to defeat, embarrassment, pain, death and collapse of Russia as it is known now. Bad path choice.


8 ( +8 / -0 )

People are throwing molotov cocktails in the streets now. In Russia. Putin's so weak, he can't even be an effective dictator. What a loser.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I saw a fact checking website with quotes that a claimed 35 km traffic jam leaving Russia into Finland wasn't true.


Finland’s border authority has been monitoring the traffic, and stated on Thursday that the increase of traffic at the Finnish-Russian border has been comparable to typical weekend traffic.

Since all the news Russian people see is 1-sided, from Putin, they don't have the full story of what's happening in Ukraine. I suspect there is some disinformation about fighting-age men trying to leave Russia too - certainly some are, but probably not in the numbers being estimated.

I just hope that Russia doesn't need to see 25M dead before they end this.

High airfares should be expected, since only 2 airlines are flying between Russia. All the European airlines stopped all Russian service, especially after the Russians decided to steal over 400 aircraft. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/12/business/russia-airlines-planes.html

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Hundreds of thousands are trying to leave with cars. Thousands demonstrated in Moscow. Even mentioning the war could lead to 15 years in prison.

Watch: Sped-up footage appears to show large queues at the Russia-Georgia border


The Russian-Finland border is closed. As are the Baltic countries.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Protesters being issued with draft notices. Local officials serving draft notices on men in their 40s and 50s in order to meet regional quotas. Family men with children being drafted. Meanwhile, Putin holds back the majority of Russia's more than 1,000,000 active-duty military personnel from participation in the invasion of Ukraine while sending ill-trained, unfit reservists into a chaotic situation of retreat and defeat at the hands of a professional, highly-motivated Army. Protests erupting across the country, maybe not huge in number but significant considering the perils of protesting against the modern-day Tsar.

A shambles. May this bring Putin down, and soon.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

“Russian state-owned pollsters say that more than 70% of Russians support what the Kremlin calls the "special military operation", though polling leaked in July showed an even split between those who wanted to fighting to stop or continue.”

Half of Russians are against this war. From a Russian state owned poll. Remember that next time the usuals try to tell us Russians support putin.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Pretty tough to fight when your own recruits rebel.

What are they going to do when the new soldiers surrender in large numbers to Ukraine?

Putin is in a spot domestically which is the only spot he really cares about.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Bob FosseToday  08:34 am JST

“Russian state-owned pollsters say that more than 70% of Russians support what the Kremlin calls the "special military operation", though polling leaked in July showed an even split between those who wanted to fighting to stop or continue.”

Half of Russians are against this war. From a Russian state owned poll. Remember that next time the usuals try to tell us Russians support putin.

A new 'Vietnam' for Russians. And if men in their 40s and 50s are getting draft notices, I hope they don't stand for this at all. They're at the age they can remember Afghanistan 1979-1989 and how it sucked up Soviet resources and manpower (just like it has American in this century), and they can remember the Chechan wars of the 90s-00s which were devasting too.

Putin has over the years put the Russian Army into many conflicts trying to become a 21st Century Czar. And it has only benefitted himself. Nobody else.

If he really is trying to draft all these men, I hope they rebel. This Ukraine war and the resulting UN sanctions are a total screw-up of the 5th magnitude. Since Gorbachev recently died and many Russians (and others) remember the promises that were broken after the Cold War era, I hope the Russians take the time to recall those times and get rid of Pudding-Head soon. The recent wave of 'building jumps' and this draft shows that he is desperate now. How about showing this oaf the DOOR?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

How about showing this oaf the DOOR?

I think Putin really needs to be shown the sixth-floor window, the same one so many of his opponents seem to accidentally fall out of. All that needs to happen then is make sure he leaves through it.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

People being dragged away from protests screaming "I don't want to die for Putin" and being forcefully conscripted are being told it's their civic duty. Only person with any civic duty is Putin... to protect his citizens... and he is failing miserably. People have said this before... it's Russia's Vietnam.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

With its enormous mineral wealth Russia and its citizens should be amongst the most prosperous in the world. They clearly aren't, and this is due to Putin.

Somebody close to Putin should slot him, for the good of Russia.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Some Russian men headed swiftly to the borders on Thursday 

Much more Russian men yesterday headed swiftly toward recruting stations.

The recruiting stations are overcrowded.

many have been rejected - and it was a scandals

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Much more Russian men yesterday headed swiftly toward recruting stations.

Yeah, they're called fire men. They put out fires started as a result of arson.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Grass is pretty green on that mural. It's always greener on the other side.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Much more Russian men yesterday headed swiftly toward recruting stations.

They're sheep, to be herded off to Ukraine to die for Putin's ego. Hopefully their families will be deep into the Russian propaganda machine so they can feel good about supporting the deaths of their family members for Putin's go. Say good bye with pride Russians.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Your losing.

Your men are abandoning the country.

Everyone can see it. 

Today, a referendum starts on accession begins in 4 regions of the former Ukraine to Russia

Donetsk region, Luhansk region, Kherson region and Zaporozhye region

Congratulations are accepted.

Unlike the poor devils of RT land, we have access to a variety of media.

variety of western media?

Sorry - I have access to info from both side of conflict.

Not you.

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

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