The world was rocked on Thursday as Russia continued its largest conscription drive since World War Two, driving some men to flee, while Ukraine demanded: “fair punishment” for a seven-month-old incursion.
The mobilization of an additional 300,000 Russians by President Vladimir Putin intensifies a conflict that has already claimed thousands of lives, uprooted millions of people, destroyed cities, hurt the global economy, and rekindled Cold War hostilities.
After repeated Kremlin assurances that it wouldn’t happen and a run of military setbacks in Ukraine, widespread conscription may be the most dangerous domestic policy decision of Putin’s two decades in office.
A monitoring group said that more than 1,300 people were detained on Wednesday during anti-war protests in 38 Russian towns. Independent news sources reported that some had received summonses instructing them to appear at recruiting offices on Thursday, the first day of conscription.
One-way flights from Moscow to the closest overseas destinations cost upwards of $5,000, and the majority were sold out for the upcoming days. At the border crossings with Georgia and Finland, traffic also increased.
One passenger, who only gave his name as Sergey, said, “Every reasonable person is [worried],” as he deplaned in Belgrade following a journey from Moscow.
An arriving Russian man claimed that the Kremlin’s decision was a contributing factor in his departure.
Alex grabbed his suitcase at the baggage carousel and stated, “It looks like a very stupid step and it can lead to lots of issues for many Russians.
Reports of a large evacuation, according to the Kremlin, were overblown.
As a diplomatic standoff loomed on Thursday in New York, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the UN to establish a special tribunal and remove Moscow’s veto authority in the UN Security Council.
Zelensky, wearing his signature green military T-shirt, addressed world leaders via video at the annual UN General Assembly on Wednesday.