Flights from Russia filled up on Wednesday and tickets skyrocketed as large numbers of Russians tried to leave while they still could.
The rush was apparently triggered by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order to immediately call up hundreds of thousands of reservists for the war in Ukraine.
Searches for Russia’s most popular flight booking website, Aviasales, rose according to data from Google Trends.
Which flights from Russia are sold out?
Data from Aviasales showed Wednesday’s direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul and Yerevan were sold out as Turkey and Armenia allow Russians to enter visa-free.
Tickets for flights operated by Air Serbia from Moscow to Belgrade were also sold out in the coming days.
Prices for one-way tickets to Turkey skyrocketed to nearly 70,000 rubles ($1,150, €1,168), a threefold increase from about 22,000 rubles a week ago, according to data from Google Flights.
Fares to Dubai also rose, with the cheapest economy class ticket costing about 300,000 rubles.
Can Russians leave the country?
A source from the tourism industry told Reuters news agency that there have been no imposed restrictions on travel abroad so far.
The source explained to Reuters that people were still rushing to leave, fearing they would not be able to leave the country after that.”
Putin did not specify the number of people who would be called up, but said the Defense Ministry would determine the number.
In a televised interview, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 300,000 reservists would be mobilized initially, stressing that the decree only applied to those with relevant combat and service experience.
Still, there were reports all over social media of panic spreading among Russians.
Some reports claimed that some people had been turned back from Russia’s land border with Georgia. TBEN could not independently verify the reports.
While the Russians still appear to be able to leave the country, their options are limited by Western sanctions against Moscow.
EU members – and Russia’s neighbors – Latvia and Estonia are not keen on taking in Russians fleeing the mobilization.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics cited security concerns in Riga for refusing to accommodate them.
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu was quoted by Reuters as saying that a “refusal to fulfill his civic duty in Russia or the desire to do so is not a sufficient ground to obtain asylum in another country.”
Protests against mobilization
In addition to the flight attempts, Putin’s announcement also sparked protests.
At least 425 people have been arrested in demonstrations in 24 cities across Russia, according to the police monitoring group OVD-Info.
The TBEN news agency reported that police surrounded a small group of protesters in Saint Petersburg and arrested them one by one.
According to the agency, the protesters chanted: “No mobilization!”
fb/wd (TBEN, TBEN, Reuters)