As Russia enters its largest conscription drive in history, draft-aged Russians are reportedly fleeing the country. With plane ticket prices at an all-time high of $5,000 (PS4,443) and increasing border crossings, the cost of flying to the country has risen significantly.
Vladimir Putin launched Wednesday a new mobilization campaign for the seven-month-old conflict in Ukraine. The war has already decimated cities and killed thousands of people, and displaced millions of people, as well as harmed the global economy.
Surveys in Russia suggest that Russia’s “special military operations” have widespread support, partly due to propaganda by the government. However, residents are fleeing the country and protests are taking place.
Ukraine war news: Putin is ‘deeply troubled’ after his nuclear ‘bluff
Some airline tickets to Moscow rose above $5,000 (PS4,443) per one-way flight to foreign destinations. Most of these flights were sold out in the next days.
According to a source in the tourism industry, “This panic demand is from people who fear they won’t have the ability to leave the country later. People are buying tickets without caring where they fly to.”
The traffic has increased at the border crossings to Georgia and Finland.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin said that the Finnish government is looking at ways to reduce Russian transit through Finland and tourism.
After a series of Western countries closed their airspace and land borders to Russian planes, the Finnish land border crossings remain one of few points that allow Russians to enter Europe.
After Moscow’s invasion of 24 February, Finland decided to keep its border with Russia open. However, it has reduced the number consular appointments for Russian visa-seekers.
Border traffic ‘intensified during the night
Three hours drive from Russia’s second largest city, St Petersburg, lies Vaalimaa border crossing. At around 1:15 p.m. (1115 GMT), three lanes of cars stretch for 300-400 meters (yards), a border official said to Reuters.
Matti Pitkaniitty (head of international affairs at the border guard) tweeted that “Traffic at Finland-Russian borders intensified during night.” He assured Reuters that the border guards were available at all nine checkpoints.
While traffic from Russia was more busy than usual, border guards stated in a statement that it had not changed “alarmingly”, compared to pre-pandemic.
The other EU countries bordering Russian territory, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Poland, started refusing Russian citizens to cross at midnight Monday. They said they shouldn’t travel while their country is at conflict with Ukraine.
Their ministers stated Wednesday that the three Baltic countries will not offer refuge to Russians fleeing Moscow’s mobilization of troops.
On Wednesday, more than 1,300 people were detained in anti-war protests that erupted in 38 Russian cities.
Independent news outlets reported that some of the detainees were ordered to report to the enlistment offices on Thursday. This was the first day of conscription.
For the weekend, there are more rallies.
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“Now, because of mobilisation, Russia’s war on Ukraine is not something that most Russian citizens see on TV or the Internet, but something that has entered all Russian homes,” Ukraine President Volodymyr Zeleskyy stated in a video address Thursday night.
Russia denied that reports of a mass exodus had been reported. State news agencies reported Thursday that 10,000 people had signed up to fight, even before their call-up papers arrived.
Plans for annexe Ukraine – and a Nuclear Threat
On Wednesday, Putin declared his intention to annexe four Ukrainian provinces. Referendums will begin on Friday. He also threatened to use nuclear weapons should this be necessary.
International community has widely condemned the votes as “sham” referendums, with NATO calling them “illegally and illegitimate”.
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General, stated to the Security Council that any talk of a nuclear war was “totally unacceptable”. He also said that any attempt to annexe territory would be against international law.
Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, stated to the UN Security Council that “the very international order we have gathered here is being shredded before unsere eyes.”
“We cannot let President Putin get away without our support.”
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Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, accused Kyiv “brazenly trampling” Russians’ rights in Ukraine.
Later, he walked out of an UN meeting as his allies attacked Russia over the war.