Shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he will deploy citizens to fight Ukraine on Wednesday, “how to break an arm at home” became the top Google trend in Russia. The Russians also bought one-way plane tickets out of the country after the announcement, reported New York Post. In an address, President Putin and military officials said 300,000 reservists would immediately be conscripted to fight in the unprovoked invasion after the warring country had lost significant ground in Ukraine amid recent counterattacks, said the report.
Putin on Wednesday ordered Russia’s first mobilisation since World War Two and backed a plan to annex swathes of Ukraine, warning the West he was not bluffing when he said he’d be ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia.
The Russians were given just four hours to pack their bags and say goodbyes to their families, said a Metro.uk report. Tens of thousands of others have sought to flee the country, with five-hour long queues at the borders to Finland, Georgia, and Mongolia. Those who were lucky got the flight, but others were blocked from departing even if they tickets or visa.
Prices for air tickets out of Moscow soared above $5,000 for one-way tickets to the nearest foreign locations, with most air tickets sold out completely in coming days. Social media groups popped up with advice on how to get out of Russia while one news site in Russian gave a list of “where to run away right now from Russia.” There were long tailbacks at border crossings with Georgia, reported Reuters.
Western military analysts have long said that Russia is suffering serious manpower shortages on the Ukraine battlefield due to heavy losses, while Russian nationalists have for months been calling for some kind of mobilisation to inject new life into what they have described as a stuttering campaign.
Ukraine launched its own mobilisation programme two days before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion and soon afterwards announced martial law, which banned men aged 18-60 from leaving the country. It is currently on its fourth wave of mobilisation. The exact number of mobilised reservists in Ukraine is classified but official pronouncements suggest it is at least 400,000.