At least 200,000 Russians have fled the country in the week since President Vladimir V. Putin announced a partial military mobilization following a series of setbacks in the country’s war with Ukraine, according to figures provided by Russia’s neighbors.
The mobilization could draw up to 300,000 civilians into military service, out of what Russian officials have said is a pool of some 25 million adults eligible for conscription on their lists, suggesting the departures, while unusual, may not prevent the Kremlin from achieving its goal. conscription goals.
Video posted on social media platforms showed long lines of cars approaching border checkpoints in countries including Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Finland. The quick exit, as well as a series of protests in different parts of the country, are a clear sign of discontent with Putin’s policy.
“I left because of my disagreement with the current Russian government,” said Alexander Oleinikov, 29, a bus driver from Moscow who had crossed overland into northeast Georgia. He said many people he knew were against the war, which he called a “tragedy” caused by “a crazy dictator.”
The size of the exodus is difficult to determine, however, given that Russia has borders with 14 countries, stretching from China and North Korea to the Baltic states, and not all governments publish regular data on migration.
Kazakhstan’s government said on Tuesday that 98,000 Russians had entered the country in the past week and Georgia’s interior minister said more than 53,000 people had entered the country from Russia since September 21, when the mobilization was announced. The daily number rose during those days to around 10,000 from a normal level of around 5,000 to 6,000.
The European Union’s border agency, Frontex, said in a statement that nearly 66,000 Russian citizens entered the bloc in the week to Sunday, up 30 percent from the previous week.
Those figures lend some additional credence to the scale of the exodus described in a weekend report by the Latvia-based independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta Europe, which cited what it said was a security service estimate, provided by an unnamed source. identified, of 261,000 men who have left the country for the Sunday
There is also evidence that Russia may be acting to stem the flow of departures. On Wednesday, the Russian republic of North Ossetia imposed restrictions on cars arriving from other parts of the country. Republic Governor Sergei Menyaylo said the ban was introduced after 20,000 people crossed the border in two days.
Some European countries have already imposed border restrictions with Russia, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, which have closed their doors to most Russian citizens. On Wednesday, the Finnish government said it would take action the following day to “significantly restrict” Russian travel to and through Finland, a popular entry point to other Schengen countries.
On Wednesday, the US Embassy in Moscow, which had previously urged its citizens to leave Russia, reaffirmed the position in light of the mobilization campaign, warning that those with dual Russian and US nationality could risk being recruited.
Russia is also trying to clamp down on citizens trying to leave the country. On Tuesday, state media reported that men waiting to flee at the Georgia border were given calling papers.
However, some analysts cautioned that the practical impact of the exits is likely to be limited.
“Many young Russians are leaving in a mass exodus from Russia,” said Mick Ryan, an Australian military expert who has commented extensively on the war in Ukraine. “But millions of others will not have the means to leave Russia to escape its preliminary warnings.”
Ksenia Ivanova contributed to this report.