Some 200,000 Russian men have fled mobilisation, more than number sent to fight Ukraine

Queues to leave Russia by land now stretch several kilometres.

Tan Min-Wei | September 30, 2022, 11:30 AM

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With estimates of up to 200,000 Russian men having fled the recent mobilisation order, it appears that more Russians have fled the call to join the war in Ukraine than were originally sent.

The estimated number was derived from stats provided by neighbouring countries like Georgia, Kazakhstan and the European Union, Bloomberg reported.

Scrambling to flee

Russia's initial war aims seem to have failed within weeks of the war. Its gains since April have been dramatically overturned since the start of September, with remaining elite formations such as the 1st Tank Guards Army appearing to be decimated or even destroyed.


It was against this backdrop that current Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated the conflict by issuing orders for 300,000 reserve military men to be mobilised, as well as declaring that sham elections will be held in occupied territories of Ukraine, except for Crimea where a sham election was held in 2014.

But the mobilisation law appeared to be too vague, leaving many Russian men worried that they might be called up as well, regardless of Putin saying that only former military men would be called up.

In a clear sign of their scepticism, flights to countries that did not require visas for Russians, such as Turkey and Armenia, sold out almost instantly after the announcement.

However, at that time, it seemed that land borders were not affected, with Finnish border control saying on Twitter that it had not noticed any peculiar rise in traffic.

This appears to have changed in the little over a week since mobilisation was announced.

Neighbouring countries shutting down borders

Since then, Russia's land borders have seen massive lines of men trying to evade mobilisation. Travel to European Union neighbours appears to be the most tricky, with the EU debating whether to leave the borders open.

Following the move by Baltic states to close their borders, Finland has also done the same, becoming the last EU country that neighbours Russia to do so.

The debate in the EU is whether to accept these men fleeing Russia as refugees, and whether to extend humanitarian assistance to them. While politicians in Germany and France have said that it should be considered, those directly bordering Russia are reluctant to do so.

Non-EU Caucasian and Central Asian states have also seen large influxes of military age men and their families. Videos emanating from Georgia shows a line 6km long, so long that satellite photography can only show a fraction of it clearly.

Kazakhstan is reported by Al-Jazeera to have let in almost 100,000 Russians. Some told Al-Jazeera that they had left in order to avoid being called up, and that many do not intend to return.

Kazak authorities are facing calls to close the border, and are considering whether to introduce limits on how long Russian arrivals can stay in the country without a passport. Currently, Russian nationals require neither visa nor passport to enter Kazakhstan.

Nevertheless, Kazak President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has said that the country should help those fleeing Russia, calling their situation "hopeless".

There is also hostility from Georgians to the newcomers, who they accuse of having supported "Putin's war" until they themselves were at risk. Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and annexed part of it; some have speculated that if the Russian invasion of Ukraine had been successful, Georgia would be the next target.

In a similar vein, former Mongolian Prime Minister and President Elbegdorj Tsakhia have called out Putin for sending ethnic minorities, particularly Mongolians, to fight and die in Ukraine, saying they had been used as "cannon fodder". While wearing a ribbon with the colours of the Ukrainian flag, he called on Putin to end the war as well.


Wholly unprepared troops being sent to frontlines

Social media is replete with videos of disturbing conditions for those who have already been mobilised.

Multiple videos have also shown rusty assault rifles being issued to new conscripts, although some say the rifles might still be workable. Also, older rifles use different ammunition, and will likely cause logistical issues.

An undated video shows a Russian military officer telling new recruits that the army will provide them with armour and uniforms, but not equipment like medical supplies. She urges them to get their loved one to buy them cheap tampons in order to use them as makeshift medical equipment, specifically to treat bullet wounds.

But reporting by The Moscow Times, an independent Russian news outlet now in exile, has said that as of Sep. 27, less than a week after the start of mobilisation, the new troops were already reaching the frontlines, indicating that they were barely receiving any training at all.

In fact there are already videos showing men claiming to have been mobilised, sent to the front, and surrendered.

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Top Image via @christogrozev/Twitter & @kamilkazani/Twitter