The “partial mobilization” of citizens by Vladimir Putin for his war in Ukraine has brought about drastic changes for many Russians, with recruited men saying goodbye to their families emotionally, while others try to escape, rushing to cross land border crossings or buy planes. Exit tickets.
For many departing, the reason is the same: to avoid being conscripted into Putin’s brutal and faltering assault on neighboring Ukraine. But the circumstances surrounding their decisions — and the difficulties of leaving home — are very personal to each individual.
For Evan, the man who said he was An officer in the Russian reserves and left his country for Belarus on Thursday, the motive 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 might not be able to leave later,” Evan said, adding that he was thinking of a close friend at home with two young children who, unlike him, was unable to pack up and go.
Alexey, 29, who arrived in Georgia from Russia via bus on Thursday, told CNN that the decision was partly due to his roots.
He said, “(Half) my family is Ukrainian…I’m not in the reserves now, because of this wave of mobilization, but I think if this continues, all men will be eligible.”
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 intended to change the scope of the Russian invasion from an offensive largely fought by volunteers to one that involves a larger segment of its population.
The ad unleashed a frenzy for some Russians, as social media chatter has exploded on platforms like Telegram with people frantically trying to figure out how to get seats in vehicles bound for the border, some even discussing cycling.
And long queues of traffic formed at the land border crossings to several countries, according to a video clip. Images posted on Kazakh media websites appeared to show reinforced vehicles near the Russia-Kazakhstan border. In one, published by Kazakhstan’s Tengri News, a person can be heard saying that his car was “parked for 10 hours” in Russia’s Saratov region, as they try to make their way to Kazakhstan.
Endless cars. Everyone is running. Everyone is on the run from Russia,” the person in the video can be heard saying. CNN cannot independently verify the videos.
In the arrival hall at Istanbul Airport on Friday, 18-year-old student Daniel told CNN about his plans to wait in Turkey. He flew to Turkey on Friday for a pre-booked holiday, but since the mobilization was announced, he has had to deal with a new life in the country.
“We are young people, we can learn and build a new life. We want to be useful. He said about his plans with his girlfriend.” Since I am a student, I technically do not move, but it can change. We know that our government is lying to us. Daniel said.
Software engineer Roman told CNN he hurriedly bought his ticket to Turkey minutes after Putin’s mobilization speech. He plans to go to Portugal, where he received a visa.
“War is terrible. I am strongly against this war. Everyone I know is against it. My friends and family, no one wants this war. Only politics wants this war,” adding that his wife had to stay in Russia because she did not have a Portuguese visa.
“The only plan is to survive. I am just afraid.”
Another Russian citizen, who asked not to be named, described the war as cruel and pointless, “It shouldn’t have started in the first place. And I’m sorry for the Ukrainians – I sympathize with them.” On Saturday, Al-Mutlaq will travel to Israel without his two sons, who are still in Russia.
“I hope to bring them to me when I’m settled,” he said. I will try to push them away because Russia is definitely not the place for them.
On Thursday, Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee issued a statement saying that the border was “under special control” but was operating normally amid “an increase in the number of foreign nationals” entering the country. The State Revenue Committee said in a separate statement that the number of passenger cars entering Kazakhstan from Russia has increased by 20% since September 21.
On Finland’s eastern border with Russia, traffic intensified Thursday night, according to Finnish border guards. Earlier that day, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told parliament that her government was ready to take measures to “put an end” to Russian tourism and transit through Finland, according to Finnish public radio Yle.
Many of the departures appeared to be men. Women are not part of Russian conscription.
The sites of travel agencies also showed a significant increase in the demand for flights to places where Russians do not need a visa. Flight selling sites are selling direct flights to these countries until at least Friday, while anecdotal reports have indicated that people are having difficulty finding ways to leave beyond that time frame.
At least two Russians who have left the country, one by land and one by air, told CNN that Russian authorities questioned the departing men, with inquiries including whether they had received military training and others about Russia and Ukraine.
It was more like a normal passport control, but every man in the queue was stopped and additional questions asked. They took a group of us into a room and basically asked questions about (our) military,” Vadim, a Russian who arrived in Georgia by air, told CNN.
Within Russia’s borders, the mobilization that some were aiming to flee seemed to be already underway.
Videos on social media showed the first stage of partial mobilization in several Russian regions, especially in the Caucasus and the Far East, far from the affluent urban areas of Russia.
In Russia’s far eastern city of Nyirongi, families said goodbye to a large group of men as they boarded buses, as shown in a video posted on a community video channel. The emotional video shows many people, including a woman crying and hugging her husband goodbye, while extending his daughter’s hand from the bus window.
The last group of about 100 newly mobilized soldiers is shown waiting at Magadan Airport in the Russian Far East, next to a transport plane. Telegram videos showed another group of men mobilized waiting for transport, allegedly in Amginsky Ulysses in Yakutia, a vast region of Siberia.
Near the Ukrainian border, a crowd gathered near the city of Belgorod to bid farewell to a newly mobilized group of men. As they boarded the bus, a boy shouted “Bye bye, Dad!” And he starts crying. CNN has not been able to independently verify the videos.
In other scenes circulating on social media, tensions escalated over forced conscription.
In Dagestan in the Caucasus, a sharp argument broke out in one of the recruitment offices, according to one of the videos. One woman said her son had been fighting since February. A man said to her that she should not have sent him, and she replied, “Your grandfather fought to live,” and the man replied, “At that time it was war, and now it is politics.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Russians on Thursday to protest against the partial military mobilization.
Thousands of Russian soldiers have died in this war in six months. Tens of thousands wounded and maimed. Want more? Number? Then protest. Defend. Run. Or surrender to Ukrainian captivity. “These are options for you to survive,” Zelensky said in his daily video address to his country. Alive”.
“(The Russian people) understand that they have been cheated,” the Ukrainian president said, addressing the anti-war protests that erupted across Russia on Wednesday.
But dissent is usually quickly crushed in Russia, and authorities have imposed further restrictions on free speech in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.
Police soon cracked down on Wednesday’s demonstrations, which were mostly small-scale protests. Authorities have detained more than 1,300 people in at least 38 cities, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info.
Some of those protesters were immediately recruited into the army after their arrest, according to the group’s spokeswoman Maria Kuznetsova, who told CNN by phone on Wednesday that at least four Moscow police stations are recruiting some of the arrested protesters.
Earlier this week, Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, amended the military service law, setting a prison sentence of up to 15 years for violating military service duties – such as desertion and evasion, according to the state news agency. TASS.
Ivan, a reservist who spoke to CNN after leaving the country this week, described the sense of desperation many in Russia are feeling in the wake of recent events.
“It feels bad because a lot of my friends, a lot of people don’t support the war and feel threatened by what’s going on, and there is no democratic way to stop this, even to declare your protest,” he said.