Russian males take the lengthy highway out to flee mobilisation By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Russian reservist bids farewell to family earlier than his departure for a base in the midst of partial mobilisation of troops, aimed to help the nation’s army marketing campaign in Ukraine, within the city of Gatchina in Leningrad Area, Russia Oc

By Felix Mild

LONDON (Reuters) – As quickly as Vladimir Putin introduced his army call-up for the faltering warfare in Ukraine, Timofey and Andrey, two brothers from Moscow, tried to e-book flights in another country. However by the point that they had logged on, costs had already shot up so quick that they could not afford the final remaining tickets out.

As a substitute, they jumped within the automobile. Their father drove them by the night time some 700 km (450 miles) to Minsk in neighbouring Belarus. There, they bought a flight the subsequent morning to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

“We thought we would need to cross the [Belarusian] border illegally by the forests in the event that they did not allow us to out of Russia,” mentioned Andrey, 26, talking from Tashkent. Each brothers requested that their surname be withheld to guard household again residence.

Putin’s call-up order has prompted tens of 1000’s of Russian males to flee the nation, usually by circuitous routes.

Kirill Ponomarev, a 24-year-old journalist from Voronezh near Ukraine, got down to attain Yerevan in Armenia. It took him every week on a journey by automobile, prepare and airplane spanning greater than 10,000 km (6,000 miles).

Even earlier than Putin made his announcement, Ponomarev was planning to depart: he already had a ticket booked for Yerevan however was not on account of fly for an additional six days.

The day after Putin’s speech, Ponomarev determined it was too dangerous to attend. The regional governor signed a decree banning reservists from leaving the province. Ponomarev took barely an hour to pack earlier than hopping in a automobile for 600 km (370 mile) drive to Volgograd, near the border with Kazakhstan.

There, he discovered an inexpensive ticket on a long-distance prepare sure for Tajikistan, which generally carries Central Asian migrant staff to and from Russia.

“My sense was that 90% of my carriage have been Russian males of army age. Everybody checked out one another in silence, however all of us understood what was occurring,” he mentioned.

“On the border, a guard bought on the prepare and mentioned ‘Wow, I’ve by no means seen so many males on this prepare, the place are you all going?’,” he added. “Everybody mentioned they have been going to see their family, their grandmother or their girlfriend.”

The prepare took 17 hours to succeed in the distant Kazakh oil metropolis of Atyrau on the Caspian Sea. There, Ponomarev discovered a flight to Kazakhstan’s business capital Almaty, one other 2,000 km (1,200 miles) east. From there, he caught a flight to Sharjah within the United Arab Emirates.

He made probably the most of an 11-hour stopover to go to the seashore and swim within the Gulf, earlier than lastly flying on to Yerevan.


Tashkent and Yerevan, like different capitals of former Soviet states that permit in Russians with out visas, have change into havens, particularly for members of the Russian city center lessons who have been in a position to transfer shortly and had sources to flee.

“We booked a room in a hostel for 2 weeks – and just about everybody right here is Russian,” mentioned Timofey, one of many Moscow brothers in Tashkent. “In case you stroll across the metropolis, you see quite a lot of Russians, quite a lot of IT staff, sitting and dealing in cafes.”

Uzbekistan permits Russians to remain with no visa for 90 days, and has mentioned it is not going to deport Russians who come to keep away from conscription. Andrey and Timofey plan to maneuver on to Turkey the place Russians can receive residency permits comparatively simply.

“I don’t count on to return to Russia within the subsequent six months or a yr,” Andrey mentioned.

For Ponomarev the journalist, the most important tradition shock of transferring to Yerevan was Armenia’s raucous democracy and relatively free press, after leaving Russia the place all unbiased media have been shut.

“You’ll be able to really feel a sure type of freedom,” he mentioned. “You’re feeling that it’s a democratic nation.”

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