Masses are fleeing Russia after Putin’s “partial mobilization”

Masses are fleeing Russia after Putin’s “partial mobilization”
Cars queue to enter Finland from Russia at Finland’s most southern crossing point Vaalimaa, around three hour drive from Saint Petersburg, in Vaalimaa, Finland September 23, 2022. REUTERS/Essi Lehto

Russia has called its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation,” which in theory has meant that it involves only enlisted military personnel and shouldn’t affect the general population too much. This also allowed the government to side-step officially declaring war on Ukraine. (In practice, there’s been some coercion of citizens to enlist, and economic sanctions have hit the general population, too, but that’s a whole other conversation.) Now, though, Putin has announced a “partial mobilization,” which means the military will be calling in reservists around the country, along with people who have military training.

But, Russians are worried that this isn’t where it ends and that a possible draft could pull civilians into the war effort. So, thousands of Russians are flocking to airports and land crossings to get out of the country before any draft enlists them or before any enlistment-eligible men are banned from leaving.

Now, the lines to get out of the country are extremely long. In Finland, border crossings from Russia had doubled last week, and the line into Georgia was 10 kilometers long, forcing people to wait up to 24 hours to cross.

Key comments:

“I don’t believe that this is a partial mobilization,” said a 35-year-old Russian named Daniil, who rented a van to get across the border. “I have this military card that says that I am a soldier but ineligible by age. But yes, I know that we are all reserves, and one day this moment would come, so that’s why I chose to come here. Their tactic is simply to lower the panic and say it’s a partial mobilization.”

“Military service will apply only to citizens who are currently in the reserve, especially those who have served in the armed forces, have certain military professions and relevant experience,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, adding that the country has “lots of weapons to reply” to any threats from the West.

“It is clear that the criminal war is getting worse, deepening, and Putin is trying to involve as many people as possible in this,” said Russia’s opposition leader Alexei Navalny from jail. “He wants to smear hundreds of thousands of people in this blood.”