Some conscription-age Russians rushed to leave the country on Thursday to escape their country’s biggest conscription campaign since World War II, as world powers at the United Nations demanded that Moscow be held accountable for alleged atrocities in Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov defended Moscow and responded defiantly, accusing Kyiv and its Western allies of threatening his country, before walking out at the end of his address to the Security Council.
Surveys in Russia have suggested widespread domestic support for Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine and significantly higher approval ratings for Putin than before the February 24 invasion.
But mass conscription, intended to enlist 300,000 troops, could be a gamble for Putin after promises it wouldn’t happen and heavy Russian casualties in Ukraine.
Airfare prices from Moscow have soared above €5,000 for one-way flights to the nearest foreign destinations, with most sold out for the coming days. Traffic also increased at border crossings with Finland and Georgia.
“This is a panic request from people who are afraid that they won’t be able to leave the country later – people are buying tickets without worrying about where they are going,” an industry source said. tourism.
Anti-war protests have taken place in 38 Russian cities, with more planned for the weekend. They resulted in the arrest of more than 1,300 people on Wednesday, a watchdog group reported. Some of the detainees had been ordered to report to enlistment offices on Thursday, the first full day of conscription, independent news organizations said.
“Now, due to mobilization, for most Russian citizens, Russia’s war against Ukraine is not something on TV or the Internet, but something that has entered every Russian household,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address Thursday evening.
Russia said reports of a mass exodus were exaggerated.
Russian news agencies reported on Thursday that 10,000 people had volunteered to fight before their appeal papers even arrived, citing the Russian general staff.
Putin’s mobilization plans come as the Russian military has faced major setbacks in northeastern Ukraine since the start of the month.
On Wednesday, he announced his intention to annex four Ukrainian regions and said his threat to use nuclear weapons was not a “bluff”.