NewsWorldTraffic jams and desperation at the border as some...

Traffic jams and desperation at the border as some Russians flee Putin’s ‘partial mobilization’

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Shocking footage of reservist mobilization in Russia 0:52 (CNN) — Vladimir Putin’s “partial mobilization” of citizens for his war in Ukraine has already set in motion sweeping changes for many Russians, as recruits bid emotional farewells from their families, while others try to flee, struggling to cross the land border or buy tickets to leave by air. For many of those leaving, the reason is the same: to avoid being recruited for Putin’s hesitant and brutal attack on neighboring Ukraine. But the circumstances surrounding their decisions, and the difficulties of leaving home, are deeply personal to each of them. A line of cars at a checkpoint on the Russia-Georgia border on September 21, 2022. For Ivan, a man who said he was a Russian reserve officer and left his country for Belarus on Thursday, the motivation was clear: “I don’t support what’s going on, so I decided I had to leave immediately,” she told CNN. “I felt like the doors were closing and if I didn’t leave right away, I might not be able to leave later,” Ivan said, adding that he was thinking of a close friend at home with two young children who, unlike him , couldn’t pack up and go. Alexey, a 29-year-old who arrived in Georgia from Russia by bus on Thursday, told CNN the decision was partly due to his roots. “(Half of) my family is Ukrainian… I’m not in reserves now, for this wave of mobilization, but I think if this continues, all the men will be qualified,” he said. Putin declared on Wednesday that 300,000 reservists would be recruited as Moscow seeks to replenish depleted forces after a successful Kyiv counteroffensive earlier this month. The move is intended to change the scope of Russia’s invasion from an offensive waged largely by volunteers to one involving a larger swath of its population. The announcement sparked a problem for some Russians, with social media conversations on platforms like Telegram erupting with people desperately trying to figure out how to get seats in vehicles heading to the borders, with some even talking about cycling. Long lines of traffic formed at land border crossings into several countries, according to video footage. Images on Kazakh media websites appeared to show vehicles backing up near the Russia-Kazakhstan border. In one, published by the Kazakh media outlet Tengri News, a person can be heard saying that his vehicle has been “idle for 10 hours” in Russia’s Saratov region, as they try to reach Kazakhstan. “Endless cars. Everyone is running. Everyone is fleeing Russia,” the person in the video can be heard saying. CNN cannot independently verify the videos. On Thursday, Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee issued a statement saying the borders were “under special control” but operating normally amid an “increase in the number of foreign citizens” entering the country. The number of passenger vehicles entering Kazakhstan from Russia has increased by 20% since September 21, the country’s State Revenue Committee said in a separate statement. On Finland’s eastern border with Russia, traffic intensified overnight on Thursday, according to the Finnish border guard. Earlier in the day, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told parliament that her government was ready to take action to end Russian tourism and transit through Finland, according to Finnish public broadcaster Yle. Many of those leaving seemed to be men. Women are not part of Russia’s compulsory military service. Travel agency websites also showed a dramatic increase in demand for flights to places where Russians do not need a visa. Flight-selling websites indicate that direct flights to those countries were sold out through at least Friday, while anecdotal reports indicated that people were having trouble finding ways to leave well beyond that time period. At least two Russians who left the country, one by land and one by air, told CNN that Russian authorities were questioning the men leaving, with questions including whether they had had military training and questions about Russia and Ukraine. “It was like a normal passport control, but all the men in the queue were stopped and asked additional questions. We were taken as a group to a room and asked questions mainly about (our) military (training),” he told CNN Vadim, a Russian who arrived in Georgia by air. Cars queue to enter the Brusnichnoye checkpoint on the Russian-Finnish border in Russia’s Leningrad region on September 22. The mobilization begins Within the borders of Russia, the mobilization that some wanted to escape from seemed to be already underway. Videos on social media showed the first phase of partial mobilization in various Russian regions, especially in the Caucasus and the Far East, far from Russia’s wealthy metropolitan areas. In the Russian Far Eastern city of Neryungi, families waved goodbye to a large group of men as they boarded buses, as seen in footage posted on a community video channel. Many people are visibly emotional in the video, including a woman crying and hugging her husband goodbye as he holds her daughter’s hand from the bus window. Another shows a group of about 100 newly mobilized soldiers waiting at Magadan airport in the Russian Far East, alongside a transport plane. Telegram videos showed another group of mobilized men waiting for transport, allegedly in Amginskiy Uliss in the Yakutiya region, a vast Siberian territory. Much closer to the Ukrainian border, a crowd gathered near the city of Belgorod to see off a group of newly mobilized men. As they board a bus, a boy yells “Bye, Dad!” and starts crying. CNN has not been able to independently verify the videos. In other scenes circulating on social media, tensions around the draft have risen. In Dagestan, in the Caucasus, a furious argument broke out at an enlistment office, according to a video. One woman said her son had been fighting since February. When a man told her that she shouldn’t have sent him, she replied, “Your grandfather fought so you could live,” to which the man replied, “Before it was war, now it’s politics.” Russian families say goodbye as men leave for military service in Neryungri, Sakha Republic, Russia. Defiance and arrest Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Russians on Thursday to protest against the partial military mobilization. Thousands of Russian soldiers “died in this war in six months. Tens of thousands are wounded and maimed. They want more? No? Then protest. Fight back. Run away. Or surrender to Ukrainian captivity. These are options for you to survive, Zelensky said In his daily video address to his country.Addressing the anti-war protests that broke out in Russia on Wednesday, the Ukrainian leader said: “(The Russian people) understand that they have been deceived.”But dissent is usually quickly crushed in Russia and authorities have placed further restrictions on freedom of expression following the invasion of Ukraine Police quickly cracked down on Wednesday’s demonstrations, which were mostly small-scale protests More than 1,300 people were detained by authorities in at least 38 cities, according to the independent monitoring group OVD-Info Some of those protesters were immediately recruited by the army after their arrests, according to the spokeswoman of the group, Maria Kuznetsova, who told CNN by phone Wednesday that at least four police stations in Moscow were recruiting some of the arrested protesters. Earlier this week, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, amended the law on military service and set the prison sentence of up to 15 years for violation of military service duties, such as desertion and service evasion, according to the state news agency TASS. Ivan, the reservist who spoke to CNN after leaving the country this week, described the sense of hopelessness felt by many in Russia in the wake of recent events. “It feels bad because a lot of my friends, a lot of people don’t support the war and they feel threatened by what’s going on, and there’s no democratic way to really stop this, or even protest,” he said. Yulia Kesaieva, Lauren Kent, Sugam Pokharel, and Anastasia Graham Yooll contributed to this report.

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