Traffic queues and frustration at the border as Russians flee Putin’s ‘partial mobilization’


Vladimir Putin’s “partial mobilization” of citizens for the war in Ukraine has set in motion big changes for many Russians, as drafted men bid emotional farewells to their families, while others try to escape by crossing land border crossings or buying air. get tickets

For many who leave, the reason is the same: not to be involved in Putin’s brutal attack on neighboring Ukraine. But the circumstances of their decisions – and the difficulties of leaving home – are very personal for each one.

For Ivan, for the man who said so An officer in the Russian reserves who left his country for Belarus on Thursday, the motivation was clear: “I don’t accept what’s happening, so I decided I had to leave immediately,” he told CNN.

“I felt like the doors were closing and if I didn’t get out right away, maybe I wouldn’t be able to get out later,” Ivan said, adding that he was thinking about returning home with a close friend who, unlike him, had two small children. unable to pack and go.

Alexey, a 29-year-old who arrived in Georgia by bus from Russia on Thursday, told CNN the decision was made because of his roots.

“(Half of my family) is Ukrainian… I’m not in the reserves now, for this wave of mobilization, but I think if this goes ahead, all the men will be qualified,” he said.

Putin declared on Wednesday that 300,000 reservists would be mobilized as Moscow seeks to replenish depleted forces after a successful counteroffensive in Kyiv this month. The move is to change the scope of Russia’s invasion from a largely volunteer offensive to one involving a larger part of its population.

The announcement sparked confusion among some Russians, with social media chatter on platforms such as Telegram erupting with people trying to figure out how to get seats in vehicles heading to the borders, with some even discussing cycling.

Long lines of traffic formed at land border crossings to several countries, according to the video. Images on Kazakh media websites showed vehicles backing up near the Russia-Kazakhstan border. In one, published by Kazakhstan media outlet Tengri News, a person can be heard saying their vehicle has been “stuck 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.

On Thursday, Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee released a statement saying the borders are “under special control” but are operating normally due to the “increase in the number of foreign nationals” entering the country. The number of passenger vehicles entering Kazakhstan from Russia has increased by 20% since September 21, the country’s State Revenue Committee said in a statement.

On Finland’s eastern border with Russia, traffic increased overnight Thursday, according to the Finnish border guard. That same day, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told Parliament that her government was ready to take measures to “end” Russian tourism and transit through Finland, Finnish public broadcaster Yle reported.

Many of those leaving seemed to be men. Women are not part of the Russian conscription.

Travel agency websites have also seen a huge increase in demand for flights to places where Russians do not need a visa. Flight sales websites have sold out of direct flights to these countries until at least Friday, and anecdotal reports indicated that people were having trouble finding ways to leave beyond that time frame.

At least two Russians who left the country, one by land and one by air, told CNN that the departing men were being interrogated by Russian authorities, including questions about whether they had military training and questions about Russia and Ukraine.

“It was like normal passport control, but all the men in the queue stopped and asked additional questions. They took a bunch of us into a room and asked us questions mainly about (our) military (training),” Russian Vadim, who arrived in Georgia by air, told CNN.

A mobilization seemed to be under way with some planning to escape within the Russian borders.

Videos on social media showed the first phase of partial mobilization in several regions of Russia, mainly in the Caucasus and the Far East, far from Russia’s wealthy metropolises.

In the Russian Far Eastern city of Neryungi, families waved goodbye to a large group of men as they boarded buses, as seen in footage posted on a community video channel. Many people are emotional in the video, including a woman crying and hugging her husband goodbye as she holds her daughter’s hand through the bus window.

Russian families say goodbye as men leave for military service in Neryungri, Sakha Republic, Russia.

Another shows a group of about 100 newly mobilized soldiers standing next to a transport plane at Magadan Airport in the Russian Far East. Telegram videos showed another mobilized group of men waiting for transport, believed to be in Amginskiy Uliss in the Yakutiya region, a vast expanse of Siberian land.

Much closer to the Ukrainian border, crowds gathered near the city of Belgorod to watch a batch of newly mobilized men. When they get on a bus, a boy shouts “Bye, Dad!” and starts crying. CNN was unable to independently verify the videos.

In other scenes circulating on social media, tensions over the mandatory were high.

In the Caucasus region of Dagestan, a furious argument broke out at a registration office, according to a video. One woman said her son had been struggling since February. A man told him that he shouldn’t send him, “Your grandfather fought so that you could live,” the man replied, “Then it was war, now it’s politics.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on Russians to protest against the partial military mobilization on Thursday.

Thousands of Russian soldiers “died in six months of this war. Tens of thousands are injured and crippled. Want more? No? Then protest. fight Run away. Or surrender to Ukrainian captivity. These are the chances of survival,” Zelensky told his country in his daily video address.

Of the anti-war protests that erupted across Russia on Wednesday, the Ukrainian leader said: “(The Russian people) understand that they have been deceived.”

But dissent is usually swiftly suppressed in Russia, and authorities have placed further restrictions on freedom of speech following the invasion of Ukraine.

The police were quick to respond to Wednesday’s demonstrations, mostly small-scale protests. Authorities arrested more than 1,300 people in at least 38 cities, according to the independent monitoring group OVD-Info.

Some of those protesters were immediately drafted into the military after their arrests, according to group spokeswoman Maria Kuznetsova, who told CNN by phone on Wednesday that at least four police stations in Moscow were conscripting some of the detained protesters.

Earlier this week, Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, amended the military service law, making it punishable by up to 15 years in prison for violating military service obligations, such as desertion and desertion, according to the state news agency. RATE

Ivan, a reservist who spoke to CNN after leaving the country this week, described the sense of hope felt by many in Russia in light of recent events.

“It feels bad for a lot of my friends, because a lot of people don’t support the war and feel threatened by what’s going on, and there’s no democratic way to actually stop this, even to declare your protest,” he said. he said