Russians fleeing Putin's mobilization?
“Leave the country” is trending on Google, flights are sold out
Created: 2022-09-21Updated: 2022-09-21 13:11
By: Stephanie Munk
Partial mobilization in Russia: Hundreds of thousands of Russians are being called to arms by Putin, starting immediately.
A Google trend reflects the desperation.
Moscow - It's bad news for the whole world, but real bad news for many people in Russia: On Wednesday, September 21, President Vladimir Putin ordered the partial mobilization of the Russian armed forces.
According to Russian information, around 300,000 reservists now have to go to war in Ukraine.
It is uncertain whether they will survive: according to CIA estimates, at least 15,000 Russians have already died in the Ukraine war.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke on Wednesday of "only" a good 5,000 fallen soldiers - but if this number were correct, the Kremlin would probably not be dependent on the drastic measure of partial mobilization now.
Partial mobilization in Russia: Google trend gives an idea of what is moving many Russians now
Expressing criticism of the Kremlin is dangerous in Russia - just calling the Ukraine war a war can result in 15 years in prison.
Large, public protests in Russia against the partial mobilization are therefore hardly to be expected.
But Google's "Trends" tool could provide a glimpse of what's troubling many Russians now: In the more liberal-minded Russian cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, the search phrase "how to leave the country" was trending in Google searches on the day of Putin's order “.
On the same day, one-way flights from Russia quickly “sold out,” according to a report by Reuters news agency.
For example, tickets to the destinations Istanbul and Yerevan, which can be reached without a visa, were no longer available.
Correspondents from German television and radio stations also report on young men asking for help in leaving Russia quickly.
Officially, this is probably no longer possible with Putin's order: Affected reservists are now obliged to report for military service.
The first draft notices are said to have been sent out on Wednesday (September 21).
Putin orders partial mobilization: The Ukraine war takes place at Russian kitchen tables
The war is now taking place at the Russian kitchen table: What the Kremlin euphemistically describes as a “special military operation” in the Ukraine can no longer be so easily dismissed by the Russian population.
The desperation will be great, especially among Russians who are already critical of the war: they should leave their homes and families and risk their lives for Putin's internationally outlawed great power fantasies.
A poster in St. Petersburg advertises service in the army with the words: "Serving Russia is a real job".
After Putin's partial mobilization, many Russians no longer have a choice.
© Olga Maltseva/AFP
This is reflected in comments from Russian internet forums, which Eastern Europe expert Sergei Sumlenny from the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Kyiv discovered and translated on Twitter: “My son has just been released from military service.
What happens to him now?
He's all I have," one parent wrote.
A woman complains: "I'm crying.
We could have left Russia earlier this year, but I turned it down.
My husband can now be drafted.
Ukraine scoffs at Putin's "partial mobilization" - and hopes for German weapons and Merkel
Shoigu gives figure on Russia's losses - Ukrainian military advances to Donetsk border
Putin's partial mobilization: rush to one-way flights from Russia
Many are now apparently thinking of fleeing at the last minute to avoid the front.
Eastern Europe expert Sumlenny wrote on Twitter that he found a flight ticket from Moscow to Dubai on Wednesday, September 21, for over a million rubles, i.e. almost 18,000 euros.
According to tagesschau.de
, the cheapest flights from Moscow to Dubai cost 300,000 rubles (almost 5,000 euros)
on the Russian flight booking platform Aviasales .
The demand for one-way flights is increasing rapidly: Statistics from Google Trends also show an explosion in search queries.
But it is questionable whether it is still possible for those affected to leave the country.
According to the expert Sumlenny, the Russian airline Aeroflot has even imposed restrictions on domestic flights.
Putin is mobilizing: Even before the Kremlin's decision, many Russians just wanted to get away
Many people just wanted to get away from Russia even before the partial mobilization.
Hundreds of thousands packed their bags in the first half of 2022 - according to the Russian statistical authority, 419,000 people left Russia, twice as many as in the previous year.
Already at the beginning of March, just a few weeks after the start of the war, 43 percent of 18 to 24-year-old Russians said they wanted to leave their home country forever.
This figure was announced by the opinion research institute "Levada Center" in Moscow, according to a report by
It is said that highly qualified specialists in particular have put this plan into practice, which is why there is already talk of a “brain drain”.
Partial mobilization: Putin risks growing dissatisfaction
For Putin, partial mobilization is a risky domestic political decision: his legend that the Ukraine war is going according to plan and that Russia is strong and superior is collapsing.
Criticism of the Ukraine war has recently become louder, with even Russia's best-known pop star Alla Pugacheva - a kind of Madonna of the ex-Soviet Union - publicly criticizing the military deployment.