Conflicts & War

Escaping Russia’s ‘partial’ mobilization

Moscow, Sep 22 (EFE).- Traveling between Russia and Europe has become an ordeal since the war in Ukraine started in late February this year.

From endless train, bus or boat journeys to unaffordable airplane tickets, meticulous custom checks and visa restrictions, Russians have been struggling to either return home or leave the country for months.

But since president Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization of the military on Wednesday, thousands of Russians are scrambling to leave the country before being called to war, making traveling even more complicated.

Footage showed long queues at border points shortly after Putin’s announcement while flights out of Russia sold out equally fast.

The Kremlin said on Thursday reports of crowded airports were “greatly exaggerated” and denied Russians were trying to flee the country following Putin’s announcement, which affects some 300,000 military reservists.

Margarita is one of the many trying to leave the country. She has been trying to leave Russia since receiving the news that her 79 year old father was urgently admitted to hospital in Riga, Latvia.

“I called the Latvian consulate in Moscow. They told me that although they are not issuing visas, they can give one, on a humanitarian basis, for a single family member,” she tells Efe.

“Shortly after, they called back and warned me that if I supported the war in Ukraine, I should not even apply, because I would automatically be refused. They told me they would investigate and check my social media accounts,” she adds, explaining that she would have to sign a document officially condemning the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine in order to be granted a visa.

The invasion of Ukraine has also forced Russian tourists to find new holiday destinations.

Travel from Russia to the United Arab Emirates increased by 265% this year while the demand for Egypt also increased drastically, according to Russian travel company Tez Tour.

Turkey has also become a popular tourist destination with 2.2 million Russians traveling to Turkey in the first six months of 2022, almost half a million more than during the same period in 2021.

But the popular country has taken advantage of the situation and increased prices to unaffordable figures.

“Putin has ruined the lives of millions of people with this war, and not just the Ukrainians, who are the most affected,” says Liudmila, who used to travel to Turkey twice a year but can now no longer afford the trip.

From Moscow to Madrid, Maria and her children went through a 15-hour train journey to the Belarusian city of Brest, waited for seven hours at the border to then catch a bus to Warsaw and finally a plane to Spain.

“More than worry, I felt panic when crossing the border between Belarus and Poland, even the children felt it,” she tells Efe.

“At Warsaw airport there were a lot of people speaking Russian. When I realized they were Ukrainians, I felt very guilty,” she says. EFE


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