Scores of Russian men seemingly bought all the available seats on flights out of the country on Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin declared a partial military mobilization for the war in Ukraine.
“This is an outrage,” one 27-year old Moscow resident told Soldier of Fortune via a secure messaging system. “Putin wants to throw us all to be killed on the front lines.” The young man, “Mikhail,” said that he and other conscription-aged men among his family and friends have arranged to flee Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Wednesday the partial mobilization of his country’s military reserves in a move that follows Ukrainian gains in a counteroffensive in northeastern Ukraine. Putin said in a televised address that the mobilization is necessary to protect Russia’s homeland and sovereignty.
The West is trying to weaken and destroy Russia, he said, and his country will “use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.” Putin ominously added: “This is not a bluff.”
The military will call up 300,000 reservists, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
Men such as Mikhail have scrambled to buy one-way tickets to countries that allow Russians to enter without a visa. Popular destinations are Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Many flights immediately sold out, while others skyrocketed in price.
Flights from Moscow to Istanbul on Tuesday sold for around $350. Today they are $1,133 and climbing. Flights to Dubai on Wednesday were sold out, but still available into the weekend at $1,361 and higher.
Travel to Dubai drops in October to $331.
“That is too late,” Mikhail said. “By then everyone will be conscripted and killed.”
Added Mikhail: “We are leaving now, before it is too late – for us and for Russia.”