Russians flee to border to avoid military call-up
Russian males are attempting to leave the country to avoid being drafted into the military for the war in Ukraine.
Since President Vladimir Putin announced a partial military mobilisation on Wednesday, which could see 300,000 people called to battle, lines have built up at border crossings.
Reports of males of combat age running away, according to the Kremlin, are overstated.
However, miles-long lines of vehicles, including men trying to flee the fighting, have formed along the Georgian border.
Some people travelling into the neighbouring nation have gotten around traffic jams and a rule prohibiting pedestrian crossings by using bicycles.
One of these men, who did not want to be named, told the BBC’s Nina Akhmeteli that he had waited since 09:00 local time (05:00 GMT) on Thursday and managed to cross over late that evening.
Another man reported a 12-hour wait, citing the partial mobilisation as a reason for leaving Russia to continue his studies.
Georgia is one of the few neighbouring countries that Russians can enter without needing to apply for a visa. Finland, which shares a 1,300km (800 mile) border with Russia, does require a visa for travel, and also reported an increase in traffic overnight – but said it was at a manageable level.
Other destinations reachable by air – such as Istanbul, Belgrade or Dubai – have seen ticket prices skyrocket immediately after the military call-up was announced, with some destinations sold out completely. Turkish media have reported a large spike in one-way ticket sales, while remaining flights to non-visa destinations can cost thousands of euros.
Germany’s interior minister signalled on Thursday that Russians fleeing the draft would be welcome in her country.
Nancy Faeser said deserters threatened by “severe repression” would receive protection on a case-by-case basis, following security checks. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the Czech Republic struck a different tone, saying they would not offer fleeing Russians refuge.