Terrified Russians race to flee the country in bid to dodge Putin’s army call-up, with one-way flights selling out and Google searches for ‘how to leave’ surging
Desperate Russians are frantically trying to flee the country after Vladimir Putin announced a dramatic mobilisation.
In the biggest escalation of the Ukraine war since the invasion, Putin explicitly raised the spectre of a nuclear conflict and called up 300,000 reservists in the country’s first mobilisation since World War II.
One-way flights out of Russia have skyrocketed and others have sold out as civilians scramble for a ticket to safety.
According to Russian investigative news outlet RBK, all plane tickets to visa-free countries have now sold out.
Google data showed earlier that a family of three would have to fork out £44,000 to get to Johannesburg today in a 45-hour trip with three layovers.
Direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul in Turkey and Yerevan in Armenia, both destinations that allow Russians to enter without a visa, were sold out today, according to Aviasales data, Russia’s most popular flight purchasing website.
A family walks in front of a billboard promoting the military in St Petersburg, with the slogan: ‘Serving Russia is a real job’
Google data showed a family of three would have to fork out £44,000 to get to Johannesburg today in a 45-hour trip with three layovers
Google searches for ‘How to leave Russia’ also increased today, data shows (pictured), as terrified civilians sought to avoid the prospect of conflict
A dead soldier lies on the ground in Ukraine as Putin dramatically escalates his war
Some routes with stopovers, including those from Moscow to Tbilisi, were also unavailable, while the cheapest flights from the capital to Dubai were costing more than 300,000 roubles (£4,500) – about five times the average monthly wage.
By noon, flights to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan stopped appearing online amid the scramble.
Russian Railways and Aeroflot, the country’s flagship airline, said they hadn’t ‘yet’ been ordered to ban men aged 18 to 65 from boarding.
Searches for ‘How to leave Russia’ also topped Google traffic at the time Putin’s speech was originally scheduled, data shows, as terrified civilians sought to avoid the prospect of conflict.
The tyrant’s announcement, made in an early-morning television address, raised fears that some men of fighting age would not be allowed to leave Russia.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the call-up would be limited to those with experience as professional soldiers, and that students and those who had only served as conscripts would not be called up.
Nevertheless, the move has raised fears of mass conscription in the worrying escalation of the war.
But a new word was invented to describe the hell Putin has unleashed – ‘Mogilisation’, from the Russian word ‘Могила’ [Mogila] – or grave, the expected fate awaiting thousands drafted into the army.
‘I am super worried for my young male friends and my boyfriend,’ said one woman, 28, from a city thousands of miles east of the Kremlin where the Russian president issued his fateful TV call-up.
Shortly after 7am in London, the rouble had slumped 2.6 per cent against the dollar, having earlier dipped to its weakest point since July 7.
Russian stock indexes were plunging, with energy giants Rosneft and Gazprom at one point losing around 12 per cent.
The benchmark rouble-based MOEX index hit its lowest point since February 24
A refrigerated train filled with the bodies of Putin’s fallen troops returns from Ukraine earlier in the war
The benchmark rouble-based MOEX index hit its lowest point since Feb. 24, the day Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.
The index was down 5.5 per cent at 2,094.5 points, earlier reaching a low of 2,002.73 points.
The dollar-denominated RTS index was down 8 per cent to 1,061.9 points, its lowest point since April 27.
Many Russians have been venting their fury at the announcement online.
Lilianna D demanded: ‘I recommend mobilising the entire Duma [parliament] and their families first of all.
‘And let people see how loyal they are.’
Cheerful Volunteer echoed this saying: ‘Why is an MP better than a peasant?
‘If I go to the front, I want to see both an MP and his children next to me.’
Helen raged: ‘No-one has attacked us to justify mobilising our men.’
There was palpable fear and also determined opposition from wives and mothers over the fate of their men under Putin’s new edict.
Svetlana A, 35, said: ‘I am torn apart by the stupidity of this.’
Olga P, 25, said: ‘I am sick with worry over my husband being taken from me and our baby and being forced to fight against Ukraine where his mother, and grandmother lives. I’m really scared,’ said an anonymous user.
‘What will happen to our children, husbands, fathers? Why is their fate decided by people who themselves are not subject to any mobilisation?’
Putin gave an address to the nation this morning in which he announced the mobilisation of 300,000 military reserves and referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine to make them part of Russia.
He then vowed to use ‘all means’ to defend the new territories, saying: ‘If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will without doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people – this is not a bluff.’
Putin attempted to revise history in his address, claiming the West was using Ukrainians as cannon fodder despite his military striking civilian targets (pictured)
Accusing the West of trying to ‘divide and destroy’ his country, he added: ‘Those trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the tables can turn on them.’
Putin’s gambit comes after Ukraine routed a large part of the Russian army last week, leaving him backed into a corner of his own making and facing the possible collapse of his so-called ‘special military operation’.
But rather than back down, the Russian leader has instead chosen to hold the free world to ransom – putting Russia and its huge nuclear arsenal on direct collision course with Ukraine and its allies, who have already vowed not to accept the results of ‘sham’ referendums or to stop liberating occupied territory.
It is thought the mobilisation will press around 300,000 people into the Russian army – around twice the size of the force that Putin invaded with.
But it is unclear when exactly these men will become available, and the move will do nothing to solve Russia’s chronic lack of equipment, supplies and other logistical issues that have spelled disaster for its invasion so-far.
Putin had resisted declaring any kind of mobilistion until now, apparently fearing backlash from Russians who may have been supporting his ‘special military operation’ only because they had nothing to lose.
But the Russian leader dramatically changed tack under pressure from allies, propagandists and hardliners after another humiliating military defeat near Kharkiv last week which had sparked calls for him to resign.
Shoigu also gave a rare update on Russian casualty figures in his speech, preposterously claiming that only 6,000 Kremlin troops had been killed.
Ukrainian losses, he said, were ten times that: 61,000 dead and 49,000 wounded.
IN FULL: Putin’s address to the nation
Russian President Putin gave his first address to the Russian nation since the start of his war in Ukraine this morning – mobilising his military reserves and issuing a fresh nuclear threat to the West.
The despot gave his own twisted version of the war to date, painting NATO as the aggressors, saying the Ukrainians are torturing their own civilians, and that Western leaders are plotting the destruction of Russia itself.
Here is his speech in full:
Citizens of Donetsk and Luhansk, the People’s republics of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, and other people free from the Nazi regime.
We will be talking about the steps of protecting our sovereignty, the will and desire of our citizens to determine their own future, and about the aggressive bloc of Western countries that are trying to keep their supremacy at all costs – that are trying to block and suppress any independent centers of development in order to force their will in brutal ways on other people
The aim of the West is to weaken, and destroy. They are openly saying that in ’91 they managed to split the Soviet Union and now is the time for Russia itself. Russia will be split into many regions and areas which are fighting each-other to the death.
They had these plans for a long time. They supported bands of international terrorists in the Caucasus. They are encouraging NATO to come to our borders. There is total Russophobia and many years of total hate for Russia.
First and foremost this is in Urkaine. They made the Ukrainian people cannon fodder and pushed Ukraine into a war with our country
They started the war already in 2014, using the army against the civilian population, and organising genocide, a blockade and terror against people who refused to acknowledge Ukrainian power as a result of a military coup.
As usual, they refused a peaceful solution of the Donbas issue and started claiming the right to use nuclear weapons. It became clear as before, a second large offensive in Donbas is inevitable and the decision of a pre-emptive military operation was the only decision and absolutely necessary.
The main aim of freeing the whole of the Donbas remains without change.
The Luhansk People’s Republic is fully cleared of the Nazis. The fight in the Donetsk People’s Republic continues.
The occupation regime has made deep line of defence and therefore the part of our army and Donbas military units are using technology and people, and are freeing the Donetsk People’s Republic step but step, village by village, and helping people turned into hostages by the criminal regime
As you know, the professional army is taking part in the special military operation, however volunteer units are fighting alongside them.
They have different nationalities, professions and ages. They are true patriots, protecting Russia and Donbas through the call of their hearts.
The Ministry of Defence was instructed by me to determine as soon as possible the legal status of these areas and also the status of the units of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics.
They have to be the same as the professional military of the Russian army, including social guarantees, medical and financial supplies.
We need to pay special attention to the procurement of the units of the Donbas using technology and munitions.
Our army, based on the decisions of the Ministry of Defence and the general command, have freed from the neo-Nazis the considerable territories of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
As a result, there is a long line of military contact – over 1,000km.
At the Istanbul [peace negotiations with Ukraine] there was a very positive reaction to our proposals concerning ensuring the security of Russia
But it was obvious the West was not happy with a peaceful decision, so after reaching certain compromises Ukraine was effectively given the direct order to undermine the negotiations.
The Kyiv regime started using new bands of foreign mercenaries and nationalists, and the army was trained by NATO standards and actually commanded by western commanders.
The repression regime intensified across the whole of Ukraine by its military who, in 2014,used the politics of terror and intimidation. It becomes more and more barbaric and terrible.
The territories freed from the neo-Nazis and freed from the war, they are the Novorossiya lands we are talking about – Kherson, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporzhizhia regions – you have seen the barbarities of the neo-Nazis in the regions captured by them.
The Banderas [supporters of a far-right Ukrainian leader] and the Nazi mercenaries are torturing the peaceful citizens.
In the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson over 7.5million people lived before the start of the operation.
Many were forced to become refugees, those who remained are constantly bombarded by rockets and artillery on the part of the neo-Nazis who attack hospitals, schools and create acts of terror against peaceful citizens
We have a moral right to give people that are dear to us, who are being tortured, we need to give them a chance to determine their own fate.
The parliament of the LPR, and the DPR, and the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions have decided to hold referendums on joining Russia and have asked Russia to support such a step.
I stress that we will do all that we can to create safe conditions to hold the referendums, so people can express their will and decision about the future. They will be supported by us.
Dear friends, today our army is directing at the frontline exceeding 1000km, and they are facing not just the neo-Nazis but the collective military machine of the whole of the West.
In this situation, I deem it is necessary to make the following decision which is appropriate to the threat we are facing.
In defence of our motherland, to ensure its safety, territorial integrity, security of our people and in the free territories I deem it necessary to support the decision of the Ministry of Defence and the general command for a partial mobilisation held in the Russian Federation.
I stress that it is partial mobilisation. Only those who are currently in reserve will be conscripted, and also those who served in the army and have certain military skills. They will be given additional military training, taking into account the special military operation.
The decree has been signed, officially the chambers of the federal assembly and Duma will be informed.
The mobilisation will start today on 21st September, I task the heads of regions to provide all necessary assistance to military commissioners. I stress that Russian citizens called up as part of mobilisation will be given all the guarantees, all the benefits of those serving under contract
The decree of partial mobilisation includes additional measures to safeguard the state procurement for the defence concerning military technology, and additional capacities for its production.
All the financial matters for supplying defence factories shall be resolved without delay.
In its aggressive anti-Russian policies, the West has crossed all lines.
We constantly hear threats against our people and some irresponsible politicians in the West are talking about not just providing Ukraine with long-range military systems that will be able to hit Russia – that is already happening, we’re talking about the border regions, in Belgorod and systems using strategic drones, planes, doing reconnaissance across the south.
There are plans in Washington and Brussels to move the military action on to Russian territory.
There are not just talking about Russia being destroyed on the battlefield, they are talking about political, cultural, and all other types of sovereignty with complete pillage. Now they’re talking about nuclear blackmail.
The Zaporzhzhia nuclear power plant was shelled. Also the high representative of leading NATO states were saying that it might be permissible to use nuclear weapons against Russia.
Those who make such statements will be reminded that our country also has various weapons of destruction and with regard to certain components they are even more modern than the NATO ones.
If there is any threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to protect our people we will certainly use all means available to us. I’m not bluffing.
Russia citizens can be certain that the territorial integrity of our motherland, our independence and security will be assured. I shall stress – by all means available to us
And those trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the tables can turn on them
In our historic tradition our people had it in their destiny to stop those how are trying to subjugate our motherland and it will happen now.
I believe in your support.