“War has entered every home”: the exodus of Russians to evade conscription

Some Russians of draft age scrambled to leave the country Thursday to escape their country’s biggest conscription campaign since World War II, as world powers at the United Nations demanded that Moscow be held accountable for alleged atrocities in Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended Moscow and responded defiantly, accusing Kyiv and its Western allies of threatening his country, before withdrawing at the end of his speech to the Security Council.

Surveys in Russia indicated widespread domestic support for Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine and much higher approval rates for Putin than before the February 24 invasion.

But the mass recruitment, which is aimed at recruiting 300,000 soldiers, may be a gamble for Putin following his promises that this will not happen and heavy Russian losses in Ukraine.

Prices for airline tickets from Moscow have risen to more than 5,000 euros for one-way trips to the nearest foreign locations, with most of them sold out in the coming days. Traffic has also increased at the border crossings with Finland and Georgia.

A source in the tourism industry stated: “This is a panic request from people who are afraid they won’t be able to leave the country later – people are buying tickets who don’t care where they’re going.”

Anti-war protests erupted in 38 Russian cities, with more scheduled for the weekend. It resulted in the arrest of more than 1,300 people on Wednesday, a monitoring group reported. Independent news sources said that some of the detainees were ordered to come to the recruitment offices on Thursday, the first full day of the conscription.

“Now, because of the mobilization, for most Russian citizens, Russia’s war against Ukraine is not something on TV or the Internet, but something that has entered every Russian home,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address Thursday evening.

Russia said reports of mass exodus were exaggerated.

Russian news agencies reported Thursday that 10,000 people volunteered to fight even before their summons papers arrived, citing the Russian General Staff.

Putin’s mobilization plans come as the Russian military has been facing major setbacks in northeastern Ukraine since the beginning of the month.

On Wednesday, he announced plans to annex four Ukrainian regions and said his threat to use nuclear weapons was not a “hoax”.

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