‘Won’t let Putin turn me into a killer’: Russians flee across border after news of draft

After Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilisation of citizens, Russians are fleeing across the border to avoid fighting in the war in Ukraine.

‘Won’t let Putin turn me into a killer’: Russians flee across border after news of draft
Russian police officers stand guard during an unsanctioned rally, after opposition activists called for street protests against the mobilisation ordered by President Vladimir Putin. (Reuters photo)

By Chingkheinganbi Mayengbam: In the biggest conscription of the country since World War II, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial military mobilisation to increase troops for the war in Ukraine. Putin’s order has been met with resistance from Russians as citizens took to the streets and many planned to flee across the border to neighbouring countries.


Hours after Putin’s orders, Oleg received his draft papers in the mailbox, ordering him to come to the local recruitment centre in Kazan, the capital of the Tatarstan republic.


Oleg told The Guardian that as a 29-year-old sergeant in the Russian reserves, he always knew that he would be the first in line if a mobilisation was declared. However, he had held out hope that he would not be forced to fight in the war in Ukraine.

“My heart sank when I got the call-up,” he said. “But I knew I had no time to despair.” He packed his bags and booked a one-way ticket to Orenburg, a southern Russian city close to the border with Kazakhstan.

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In a telephonic interview with The Guardian from the airport in Orenburg, he said, “I will be driving across the border tonight. I have no idea when I’ll step foot in Russia again.”

He said he was leaving his wife behind even though she was due to give birth next week. “I will miss the most important day of my life. But I am simply not letting Putin turn me into a killer in a war that I want no part in,” The Guardian quoted him as saying.

Following Putin's announcement, several Russians have left the country and many are planning to leave in the next few days.

However, options to flee are limited. Earlier this week, four of the five EU countries bordering Russia announced they would no longer allow Russians to enter on tourist visas.


'How to leave Russia' was the top search on Wednesday, according to Google search trends, as citizens booked flights to fly out of Russia. Flights to countries like Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, and Dubai, not affected by the sanctions imposed by the West, were sold out in a blink of an eye. These nations are the few visa-free destinations still available to Russian passport holders.

And those who missed out on flight tickets flocked to the borders with Finland and Mongolia, forming long traffic jams at the checkpoints on Wednesday, as protests started to simmer against Putin's move in Moscow.


According to reports, border agents at Russian airports have started interrogating departing male passengers about their military service status and checking return tickets.

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According to stats released by the independent monitoring group OVD-Info, 1,300 people had been detained in 30 cities across Russia on Thursday for protesting against Putin's mobilisation orders. Around 100 arrests were made during agitation in St Petersburg as pictures showed police bashing protesters with sticks.

Amidst the protests, there have also been calls for the EU to support Russians who are looking for a way out of the draft.

The EU Commission spokesperson on home affairs, Anitta Hipper, told The Guardian that the bloc would meet to discuss the issuance of humanitarian visas to Russians fleeing mobilisation. However, the three Baltic states on Thursday said that they are not prepared to automatically offer asylum to Russians fleeing the draft.