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


Of Vladimir Putin”partial mobilization“Citizen’s for war in Ukraine There have been sweeping changes for many Russians, as enlisted men bid emotional goodbyes to their families, while others tried to flee, scrambling to cross the land border. or buy plane tickets.

For many of those who left, the reason was the same: to avoid being drafted was Putin’s brutality and balk attack on neighboring Ukraine. But the circumstances surrounding their decision – and the difficulties of leaving home – are deeply personal to each person.

As for Ivan, a man said that he An officer in Russia’s reserve forces who left his country for Belarus on Thursday, the motive was clear: “I do not support what is happening, so I decided that I must leave immediately. immediately,” 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 him. 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 am 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 Kazakh media outlet Tengri News, one person can be heard saying their vehicle was “stopped for 10 hours” in Russia’s Saratov region as they tried to find their way to Kazakhstan.

“Endless cars. Everyone is running. Everyone is running away from Russia,” says the person in the video. 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 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 control, but every man in the queue was stopped and asked more questions. They brought a group of us to a room and asked questions mainly about (our) military,” Vadim, a Russian who arrived in Georgia via air, told CNN.

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.”

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 in six months. Tens of thousands of people were injured and wounded. Want more? No? Then object. Fight back. Escape. Or surrender to Ukraine. These are 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 the state news agency. TASS.

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 so bad 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 declare your objection,” he said.

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