Russians rush after Putin’s mobilization order; Sold out flights, crossing land borders without Cakewalk

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By CNBCTV18.com IST (Released)

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The mobilization order comes as Russia seeks to make a significant advance in Ukraine after invading the country earlier in the year.

Russians are rushing to book one-way flights out of the country. The exodus of Russian citizens follows the partial mobilization order announced just days ago by President Vladimir Putin. The mobilization order comes as Russia seeks to make a significant advance in Ukraine after invading the country earlier in the year.

This is not the first exodus of Russian nationals. Large numbers of Russians left immediately after the February invasion. But current numbers far exceed them, Ira Lobanovskaya, founder of an NGO that helps conscientious Russians leave the country, told The Guardian.

Almost all flights from Russia’s two main cities in the western half of the country, Moscow and St. Petersburg, were booked through the weekend, FlightRadar24 reported. The sheer demand for seats has driven up ticket prices.

The issue is further complicated by the limited options Russians have when trying to leave the country. Following the invasion, the European Union and many other countries closed their airspaces to Russia. Additionally, international sanctions mean that many airlines no longer operate in Russia.

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People trying to leave should also consider that they can only escape to a country that allows visa-free entry for Russian citizens. Turkey, Armenia and Georgia are popular destinations, but flights are sold out, including flights that stop over at these locations. More distant air destinations like Dubai are still available, but the cheapest tickets cost more than 300,000 rubles, about five times the average monthly salary (60,000 rubles), which most Russians cannot afford.

Data from the popular search engine Google shows a massive increase in the number of people searching for terms such as “leaving Russia” and “Aviasales”. The latter is one of the most popular flight search engines and flight booking marketplace in Russia.

Many Russians also choose to depart via land borders due to the lack of available flights. But the route is not easier there. With most EU countries bordering Russia no longer allowing Russian citizens to arrive on tourist visas, those looking to leave must either travel to the Caucasus or head to Central Asia.

However, the Russians must also make their way quickly, fearing that Russia will completely or partially close its borders. The mobilization order meant that more than 300,000 reservists were called up for active duty to serve on Ukrainian front lines. While Russia won’t admit its failures in what it calls “the special military operation”, having to withdraw reservists is a tacit signal that the invasion is progressing poorly. Along with the mobilization order came a new nuclear threat from President Putin.

Russian forces, which were once rapidly closing in on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, have now been forced into the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

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