Traffic jams and despair at the border as Russians flee Putin’s ‘partial maneuvers’

As for Ivan, a man said that he “I don’t support what’s going on, so I decided to leave my country for Belarus on Thursday,” he told CNN.

“I feel like the door is closing and if I don’t leave immediately, I might not be able to leave afterwards,” Ivan said, adding that he was thinking about a close friend coming home with two young children, unlike him, couldn’t pack up and go.

Alexey, a 29-year-old who arrived in Georgia from Russia by bus on Thursday, told CNN the decision was partly down to his background.

“(Half) of my family is Ukrainian… I’m no longer in reserve for this wave of mobilization, but I think if this continues, all the men will qualify,” he said. .

Cars line up to enter the Brusnichnoye checkpoint on the Russian-Finnish border in Russia's Leningrad Region on September 22.
Putin announced on Wednesday that 300,000 reservists would be drawn up, as Moscow seeks to replenish its depleted forces after successful counterattack from Kyiv this month. The move is set to shift the scope of Russia’s invasion from a primarily volunteer-run attack to one that appeals to a larger population.

The announcement has opened up a frenzy for some Russians, with social media chatter on platforms like Telegram exploding with people frantically trying to figure out how to get seats on the vehicles. going to the border, with some even discussing cycling.

According to the video footage, long lines of vehicles formed at land border crossings into some countries. Photos on Kazakh media websites appear to show vehicles parked near the Russian-Kazakh border. In an article published by Kazakhstan’s Tengri News, one person can be heard saying that their vehicle “stopped for 10 hours” in Russia’s Saratov region as they tried to find their way to Kazakhstan.

“Endless cars. People are running. People are running away from Russia,” the person in the video said. CNN was unable to independently verify the videos.

On Thursday, Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee issued a statement saying the borders were “under special control” but were operating normally amid “the number of foreign nationals” entering the country. this increases. The number of passenger vehicles entering Kazakhstan from Russia has increased by 20% since September 21, the country’s State Revenue Commission said in a separate statement.

At Finland’s eastern border with Russia, traffic intensified on Thursday night, according to Finnish border police. Earlier on the same day, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told Parliament that her government was ready to act to put an end to “the end” of Russian tourism and transit through Finland, according to Finnish television. Lan Yle.

Many of those leaving appeared to be men. Women are not on the payroll of Russia.

Travel agency websites also show a Strong increase in demand for flights to places where Russians do not need a visa. Flight sites say direct flights to such countries have sold out at least through Friday, while anecdotal reports suggest people are having a hard time figuring out how to leave the time slot there.

At least two Russians who have left the country, one by land and one by air, told CNN that the men who left are being questioned by Russian authorities, with questions including whether they have received military training and others about Russia and Ukraine.

“It was like a regular passport check, but every man in the queue was stopped and asked more questions. They brought a group of us into a room and asked the key questions. about (our) (training)”, Vadim, a Russian. arrived in Georgia by air, told CNN.

Start mobilizing

Inside Russia’s borders, the movement from which some were aiming to escape appears to have been underway.

Social media videos show the early stages of partial mobilization in several regions of Russia, especially in the Caucasus and the Far East, far from Russia’s wealthy urban areas.

In the Russian Far East city of Neryungi, families said goodbye to a large group of men as they boarded a bus, as shown in footage posted on a community video channel. Many people were moved in the video, including a woman crying and hugging her husband goodbye, while he reached out and grabbed her daughter’s hand from the bus window.

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

Another photo shows a group of about 100 newly mobilized soldiers waiting at Magadan airport in Russia’s Far East, next to a transport plane. Telegram videos show another group of mobilized men waiting to be transported, purportedly in Amginskiy Uliss in the Yakutiya region, a vast expanse of Siberia.

Near the Ukrainian border, a crowd gathered near the city of Belgorod to see off a bunch of newly mobilized people. As they boarded the bus, a young boy shouted “Goodbye, Dad!” and started crying. CNN was unable to independently verify the videos.

In other scenes that went viral on social media, tensions around the mandatory order ran high.

In Dagestan in the Caucasus, a furious argument broke out at an enlistment office, according to a video. One woman said her son had been fighting since February. Told by a man that she shouldn’t have sent him, she replied, “Your grandfather fought so you could live,” the man replied, “It was war then, now it’s war. politics.”

Opposition and detention

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday called on the Russian people to oppose the partial military mobilization.

Thousands of Russian soldiers “died in this war for six months. Tens of thousands were wounded and wounded. Want more? No? Then protest. Fight back. Run. Or surrender to captivity. These are your options for survival,” Zelensky said in his daily video address about his country.

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

But dissent is often quickly quelled in Russia, and authorities have placed even more constraints on freedom of expression following the invasion of Ukraine.

Police quickly cracked into Wednesday’s protests, most of them small-scale demonstrations. More than 1,300 people have been detained by authorities in at least 38 cities, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info.

According to the group’s spokeswoman Maria Kuznetsova, some of these protesters were immediately drafted into the military after their arrest, a spokeswoman for the group told CNN on Wednesday that there were at least Four police stations in Moscow, some arrested protesters are being drafted.

Earlier this week, Russia’s lower house, the State Duma, revised the military service law, introducing prison sentences of up to 15 years for violations of military service – such as desertion and evasion of military service. , according to state news. TASS agency.

Ivan, the reserve who spoke to CNN after leaving the country this week, describes the feeling of despair many people in Russia feel in the wake of recent events.

“It feels terrible because a lot of my friends, a lot of people don’t support the war, and they feel threatened by what’s going on, and there’s no democratic way to really stop this. , even declared objections,” he said.

Yulia Kesaieva, Lauren Kent, Sugam Pokharel and Anastasia Graham Yooll contributed to this report.

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