Russian men aged between 18 and 27 are leaving the country in their droves after Vladimir Putin’s call for a “partial mobilisation” of the country’s military reservists to help support his failing invasion of Ukraine.
There are massive traffic tailbacks at border crossings between Russia and Finland as potential conscripts rush to flee the country.
But some at-risk Russians are taking even more desperate measures to avoid the call-up.
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After Ukraine ’s Defence Ministry tweeted that Russians were “now actively Googling how to avoid mobilisation and stay alive,” one Ukrainian replied with a screenshot of Google traffic data in Russia, showing that there had been a surge of searches for “how to break your own arm”.
As well as announcing his vaguely-defined “partial mobilisation – the biggest since the Second World War – Putin also accused NATO officials from Nato member states of treating to use “nuclear weapons of mass destruction against Russia”, saying: “The aggressive anti-Russian policy of the West has crossed all lines”.
His provocative language sets the stage for a potential nuclear conflict on mainland Europe.
Putin’s increasingly desperate rhetoric underlines the very real personal danger to him, if Russia’s attack on Ukraine is seen as a failure. An even wider call -up could be his next step.
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Some Russians have already got out of the country for fear of being conscripted.
One of them, a 23-year old maths teacher who gave his name as Alexander, told the Moscow Times that he was medically unfit for military service.
However, he said, “the day the war started, I got a doctor’s diagnosis saying that I’m not ill and therefore I’m not exempt from serving a year in the military.”
He’s now living in Turkish capital Istanbul, where he’s likely to remain until the war ends.
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Many more are on their way to join him. Most flights out of Russia were sold out today (Wednesday, September 21), and the few remaining available seats were priced at up to 120,000 roubles (£1,700) following Putin’s announcement.
Russian social media is full of posts from civilians who say they are leaving the country by any route they can find, with some even walking over the borders into EU countries.
Putin has said that “mobilisation events” would begin today, but didn’t give any further details, aside from saying he had ordered an increase in funding to boost Russia’s weapons production.
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As well as significant human casualties, Russia has also lost a great deal of military hardware that’s increasingly difficult to replace now that strict international sanctions are in place.
One of Russia’s most advanced tanks – a T-90M – has been captured by Ukrainian troops in near-perfect condition near Kharkiv.
It represents a golden opportunity for the Ukrainians to test out the Russian army’s latest-model operational tank and research its weaknesses.
Russian tank manufacturers had relied on western technology for key parts, such as high-tech gunsights, but after international sanctions were introduced they have forced to depend on inferior home-grown components
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