Flights from Russia to available foreign destinations were sold out on Wednesday following President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of a “partial’” mobilization of the country’s twenty-five million reservists.
Flights from Moscow to the capital cities of the countries which do not require visas for Russians, such as Georgia, Turkey, and Armenia were unavailable on Wednesday, September 21st within minutes of Putin’s announcement, according to the top Russian travel planning website aviasales.ru.
By noon Moscow time, direct flights from Moscow to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan had also stopped showing up on the website. With rumors circulating of border closures, Russian Railways and state-owned flagship airline Aeroflot said they had not yet been ordered to ban men aged eighteen to sixty-five from buying tickets.
However, a Telegram channel that collects Russian travelers’ reports said it has received isolated accounts of guards turning away men of military age.
Aeroflot has no more flights to Istanbul from Moscow for the next three days, according to its website whilst Aeroflot flights to Yerevan, Armenia from Russia’s capital are also sold out until the weekend.
— Felix Light (@felix_light) September 21, 2022
Flights between Russia and the European Union were closed after Putin announced what the Kremlin calls Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Jason Corcoran, a journalist based in Moscow, Russia, wrote: “As a ranked officer in reserve, my brother-in-law would have been first to be mobilized into Putin’s meat grinder.”
“So glad he has already fled to Turkey as I suspect it’s too late for others scrambling for tickets,” he added.
There are also reports that thousands of Russians have made it to the border with Finland.
#Breaking: just in – The traffic jam at the border with #Russia/#Finland has pilled up to 35KM and is rising by the hour, it is the only border who is still open for Russian civilians with shengen visas, after #Putin announced he will send 300.000 new troops to #Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/EOJ1346qDO
— Sotiri Dimpinoudis (@sotiridi) September 21, 2022
“How to leave Russia” tops Google search engine
The selling out of plane tickets coincides with the phrase “how to leave Russia,” which surged as a Google search on Tuesday night. Putin’s speech was initially rescheduled before it was abruptly postponed to Wednesday morning.
The Kremlin signaled it would respond to losses in Ukraine with more aggressive approaches that could affect the daily lives of ordinary Russians.
Google queries about how to leave the country reached a peak at 6 p.m. Moscow time after seeing a sharp increase earlier on Tuesday. Residents of the Khabarovsk Territory in Russia’s far east bordering China, were particularly keen on leaving, according to the channel.
“The Russians were given twelve hours of rest, so Google could answer all the questions, including the question of what…the average life expectancy of a Russian soldier in Ukraine [is],” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry tweeted on Tuesday.