Partial mobilisation: Russians rush for airline tickets to leave the country

Partial mobilisation: Russians rush for airline tickets to leave the country
Credit: Belga / Eric Lalmand

Vladimir Putin's announcement of a partial mobilisation to reinforce Russian military forces in Ukraine has seen airline websites overloaded on Wednesday as people of fighting age to try to leave the country as soon as possible, Le Soir reported.

The mobilisation initially concerned 300,000 reservists but according to the Ministry of Defence a total of 25 million Russians would be eligible to join the army in eastern and southern Ukraine.

According to Google Trends, which tracks how often a word is typed into Google, searches in Russia for "tickets" and "plane" have more than doubled since 06:00 GMT on Wednesday, the time of President Putin's recorded television address.

Russian exodus

The internet search "leave Russia" was made 100 times more this morning than in normal times. This was especially the case in the Belgorod region, which borders northeastern Ukraine. The area has been hit several times since late February by Ukrainian strikes and topped the list for where these searches were made most.

Tickets for direct flights to Russia's closest destinations – Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan – are all sold out for Wednesday, according to Aviasales, a popular Russian ticketing website.

For flights to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines (one of the main air routes out of the country since Western sanctions restricted flights from Russia to Europe) "all flights are sold out" until Saturday.

At AirSerbia, the next flight to Belgrade with available seats was scheduled for Monday 26 September.

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Domestic flights to cities close to the country's borders have also seen a huge demand, with tickets from Moscow to Vladikavkaz in the south costing more than $750, compared to the usual $70.

At the beginning of the Russian offensive, there was also a huge number of Russians that opposed the invasion leaving the country. No official estimate has been made public but the number is believed to be in the tens of thousands.

An online petition against the mobilisation gathered 160,000 signatures within hours.

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