The Daily Telegraph

Men flee abroad as decree from Kremlin prompts fear of call-up

- By Nataliya Vasilyeva RUSSIA CORRESPOND­ENT in Istanbul

RUSSIAN men have been trying to flee the country and hundreds of people have been detained in protests after Vladimir Putin called up thousands of extra troops to fight in Ukraine.

Footage circulatin­g online showed crowds of people in Moscow standing in a street clapping and shouting: “Send Putin to the trenches,” as well as police violently arresting protesters.

Putin insisted when he ordered the invasion that only profession­al soldiers would be used. But yesterday, amid mounting losses, he said Russia would draft 300,000 reservists.

The announceme­nt caused a panic to get out among men, mostly young, who feared a call-up. All airline tickets to visa-free destinatio­ns were sold out and the price of a 50-minute flight to Minsk, Belarus, went up to £1,500.

Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister, told state TV the partial mobilisati­on would initially affect mostly young men who had just done military service. But the decree signed by the Russian president was vague, prompting fears it will be open to interpreta­tion.

“I’ve been anxious for at least a month – now that it happened I have no idea if I can make it out or not,” Konstantin, a 38-year old IT entreprene­ur, told The Daily Telegraph from Moscow.

Konstantin, who is divorced with a seven-year-old child, left Russia at the outbreak of the war, fearing conscripti­on, but came back a month later to properly arrange a plan for himself and family to leave the country.

He is one of millions of Russian men who got a junior officer’s rank after completing a military training course at university.

Yesterday, he bought a flight to Dubai this Sunday but he is not sure he can make it: “Everyone is really worried. My mum is already picturing me driving in a military truck to the front line.”

Another university graduate was similarly worried. “The wording of the decree is so vague, it’s not even clear who will have to go,” the 23-year-old IT engineer said.

Opposition activists called for nationwide protests, with Alexei Navalny, Russia’s jailed opposition leader, calling the decree a crime against Russians.

“The criminal aggressive war is getting worse, and Putin is trying to smear as many people as he can in blood,” he said during a break at a court hearing.

“This is done only with one goal in mind: To extend Putin’s time in power.”

Russia has not declared mobilisati­on since the Soviet Union was attacked by Nazi Germany in 1941.

 ?? ?? Videos have been circulatin­g online of protesters being arrested by police
Videos have been circulatin­g online of protesters being arrested by police

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