Large numbers of Russians rushed to book one-way tickets to leave the country while they still could on Wednesday after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization of part of the reserves for the war in Ukraine.
Flights fill up quickly and fares for the rest of the leg skyrocket, seemingly fueled by fears that Russia’s borders could soon close or a broader call could put more Russian men in age fighting to the frontline of the war.
Tickets for Moscow-Belgrade flights operated by Air Serbia, the only European airline other than Turkish Airlines to maintain flights to Russia despite the European Union’s flight ban, have sold out in the next few days. . Prices for flights from Moscow to Istanbul or Dubai rose within minutes before rising again, to 9,200 euros ($9,119) for an economy-class one-way fare.
Putin’s decree stipulates that the number of people to be called up to the army will be decided by the Ministry of Defense. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a television interview that initially 300,000 reservists with relevant combat and service experience will be mobilized.
Russia has seen a marked exodus of citizens since Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine nearly seven months ago. In his early-morning address to the country in which the president announced partial mobilization of the reserve force, he also made a veiled nuclear threat to Russia’s enemies in the West.
Reports of panic spreading among Russians soon flooded social networks. Anti-war groups say limited airfares out of Russia have reached very high prices due to high demand and rapid unavailability.
Several posts accused people of being returned to Russia’s land border with Georgia, and the website of the Russian state railway company crashed because too many people were trying to leave the country.
Russian-language social networks are also flooded with advice on how to avoid being deployed or leaving the country.
In an apparent attempt to calm the panic, the head of Russia’s lower house of parliament’s defense committee, Andrei Kartapolov, said authorities would not place further restrictions on reserve people leaving Russia. , as reported by the Russian media.
A group based in Serbia, Russia, Belgium, Ukraine and the Serb Together Against the War, tweeted that there were no flights to Belgrade from Russia until mid-October. Flights to Turkey, Georgia or Armenia were also sold out, according to the Belgrade-based group.
“All the Russians who wanted to go to war have already gone,” the group said. “No one else wants to go there!”
The capital of Serbia, Belgrade, became a popular destination for Russians during the war. As many as 50,000 Russians have fled to Serbia since Russia invaded Ukraine and many businesses have opened up, especially in the IT sector.
Russians do not need a visa to enter Serbia, the only European country that has not joined Western sanctions against Russia for its aggression in Ukraine.