One-way flight tickets out of Russia were selling out fast after President Vladimir Putin ordered the partial mobilisation of Moscow’s reserves in a major escalation of his war on Ukraine.
The Russian leader addressed the nation on Wednesday morning and said 300,000 extra military personnel would be conscripted to fight the war in Ukraine.
The announcement has apparently raised fears among those of a fighting age that they would not be allowed to leave the country unless they fled quickly.
Google Trends data seen showed a spike in searches for Aviasales, which is Russia’s most popular website for purchasing flights.
Direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul in Turkey and Yerevan in Armenia, both destinations that allow Russians to enter without a visa, were almost sold out on Wednesday, according to the site data.
There were also reports of Russians fleeing to Georgia.
Ticket purchasing options on the Aviasales website, and found that the cheapest flight to Yerevan as of 11am would set travellers back just over 82,000 roubles (£1,200), where yesterday the same ticket cost in the ball park of 8900 roubles (£130).
The cheapest flight to Istanbul – a nine hour trip requiring a stopover in Antalya – weighed in at 100,600 roubles (equivalent to almost £1,500).
Some other routes with stopovers, including those from Moscow to Tbilisi, were also unavailable, while the cheapest flights from the capital to Dubai were costing more than 300,000 roubles ($5,000) – about five times the average monthly wage.
Earlier today, the Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics said his country, which borders Russia, will not offer refuge to any Russians fleeing Moscow’s mobilisation of troops.
A translation of his tweet reads: “Due to security reasons, Latvia will not issue humanitarian or other types of visas to those Russian citizens who avoid mobilisation, nor will it change the border crossing restrictions for Russian citizens with Schengen visas.”
It comes after Mr Putin warned western leaders that Moscow would use “all the means” at its disposal to “protect” itself, saying: “It’s not a bluff.”
In a national address, the president accused western leaders of engaging in “nuclear blackmail” against Moscow – and said he has “lots of weapons to reply.”
He also backed the call for referenda in eastern and southern Ukraine on becoming integral parts of Russia as he blamed the west for turning Ukrainians into “cannon fodder.”
UK and US officials have said Mr Putin’s mobilisation and “sham referenda” are an “admission that his invasion is failing.”
Photo Credit: Getty