Sep 24, 2022 - World

Russian men fleeing country to avoid military service under Putin's order

A line of cars at the Russian border with Finland

Vehicles line up to cross the border from Russia to Finland at the Nuijamaa border checkpoint in Lappeenranta, Finland, on Sept. 22. Photo: Lauri Heino/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images

Russian men facing potential military conscription have fled the country in the wake of President Vladimir Putin’s partial military mobilization order earlier this week, the Associated Press reports.

Driving the news: The exodus signaled the unpopularity of the order and the extent people were willing to go to avoid being sent to fight in Ukraine, after Putin said as many as 300,000 could be called up for service.

The big picture: The White House has characterized Putin's move as an act of desperation, as his botched invasion reached the seven-month mark and the Ukrainian military has, in recent weeks, regained swaths of territory and seized momentum.

  • Analysts have questioned whether the Russian military has the wherewithal to train and equip hundreds of thousands of soldiers, many of whom likely don't want to fight this war, Axios’ Dave Lawler reports.

State of play: Lines of cars packed with people fleeing the country backed up at the Russian border with Finland and stretched for miles at its borders with Georgia and Kazakhstan, AP reports.

  • The cost of airfare out of Russia swelled too, with flights to countries where Russians don’t need visas for entry — Turkey, Serbia, Armenia and elsewhere — selling for a premium.
  • Some have fled to Belarus, a close Russian ally that has ordered its security forces to round up Russian men found fleeing the draft and report them to Russian authorities, per AP.
  • Videos circulating on social media showed some men fighting back against police seeking to round them up for conscription.

While Putin has said that only veterans with expertise or combat experience would be called up, some with no military experience have already been forced to enlist, Reuters reports.

  • In the poor, rural region of Buryatia, men were drafted regardless of their military record or medical history, per Reuters.
  • Governor Alexei Tsydanov released a statement Friday conceding that some men had been wrongly drafted already, but he said that those who had medical exemptions or had not previously served would not be mobilized.

The other side: Russian authorities have tried to quell fears by touting the pay that draftees would receive, introducing a new law to reduce or stop loan payments they owe, and promising that the jobs they would leave behind would be there upon their return, AP reports.

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