Russia’s young men are fleeing the country as a decree by Vladimir Putin sparks fears of being sent to war

Russian men have tried to flee the country and hundreds of people have been arrested amid protests after Vladimir Putin called up thousands of additional troops to fight in Ukraine.

Records circulating online showed crowds of people in Moscow standing on a street clapping and shouting, “Send Putin to the trenches,” and police officers violently arresting protesters.

When Putin ordered the invasion, he insisted that only professional soldiers would be used. But yesterday, amid mounting casualties, he said Russia would draft 300,000 reservists.

The announcement caused panic among the mostly young men, who feared being called up.

All plane tickets to visa-free destinations were sold out and the price for a 50-minute flight to Minsk, Belarus rose to €1,700.

Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister, told state television that the partial mobilization would mainly affect young men who had just completed military service.

However, the decree signed by the Russian president was vague, leading to fears it might be open to interpretation.

“I’ve been anxious for at least a month — now that it’s happened I have no idea if I can make it or not,” said Konstantin, a 38-year-old IT entrepreneur who Daily Telegraph from Moscow.

Konstantin, who is divorced and has a seven-year-old child, left Russia at the outbreak of war for fear of conscription, but returned a month later to arrange a proper plan for himself and his family to leave the country.

He is one of millions of Russian men who have attained the rank of junior officer after completing military training at university.

Yesterday he bought a flight to Dubai for this Sunday but he is not sure if he can make it: “Everyone is really concerned. My mother already imagines me going to the front in a military truck.”

Another college graduate was similarly concerned. “The wording of the decree is so vague that it’s not even clear who has to go,” said the 23-year-old IT engineer.

Opposition activists called nationwide protests, with Alexei Navalny, Russia’s jailed opposition leader, calling the decree a crime against Russians. “The criminal war of aggression is getting worse and Putin is trying to smear as many people as possible with blood,” he said during a break in a court hearing.

“This is done with one goal in mind: to extend Putin’s term in office.”

Russia has not declared a mobilization since Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Russia’s young men are fleeing the country as a decree by Vladimir Putin sparks fears of being sent to war

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