Initial tranches of men for Russia mobilization arrive at military bases

A Russian lawmaker also said that draft-age men should not be allowed to leave the country.

 Reservists drafted during the partial mobilisation line up outside a recruitment office in the Siberian town of Tara in the Omsk region, Russia September 26, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXEY MALGAVKO)
Reservists drafted during the partial mobilisation line up outside a recruitment office in the Siberian town of Tara in the Omsk region, Russia September 26, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXEY MALGAVKO)

Britain said on Monday that initial tranches of men called up for Russia's partial mobilization have started arriving at military bases.

"Russia will now face an administrative and logistical challenge to provide training for the troops," the British Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update.

Many of the drafted troops will not have had any military experience for some years, the intelligence update added.

"Russia will now face an administrative and logistical challenge to provide training for the troops."

British Defense Ministry

Earlier last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he had signed a decree on partial mobilization beginning Wednesday.

More Russians traveled to Finland during weekend, border data shows

Almost 17,000 Russians crossed the border into Finland during the weekend, an 80% rise from a week earlier, Finnish authorities said on Monday, as the influx of people continued in the wake of Russia's announcement of military mobilization.

 Flag of Finland on an army uniform. (credit: Santeri Viinamäki/Wikimedia Commons) Flag of Finland on an army uniform. (credit: Santeri Viinamäki/Wikimedia Commons)

The border traffic had somewhat calmed early on Monday but remained busier than in the previous weeks, Captain Taneli Repo at Finland's southeastern border authority told Reuters.

"The queues continue to be a bit longer than they've usually been since the pandemic," he said.

Wednesday's announcement of Russia's first public mobilization since World War Two, to shore up its faltering Ukraine war, has triggered a rush for the border, the arrest of protesters and unease in the wider population.

Young Russian men who spoke to Reuters after crossing into Finland via the Vaalimaa border station last week, some three hours by car from Russia's second-largest city St Petersburg, said they left out of fear of being drafted for the war.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine "a special military operation."

The Finnish government, wary of becoming a major transit nation, on Friday said it will stop all Russians from entering on tourist visas within the coming days, although exceptions may still apply on humanitarian grounds.

Russian lawmaker says draft-age men should not be allowed to leave country

Russian men of fighting age should not be allowed to travel abroad, a senior lawmaker was quoted as saying on Monday, amid growing public concern that wider border closures will be announced to stop people fleeing the draft.

"Everyone who is of conscription age should be banned from traveling abroad in the current situation," Sergei Tsekov, a member of Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, told RIA news agency.

Since President Vladimir Putin announced a partial call-up of reservists to fight in Ukraine last week, flights to leave the country have sold out and protests have been staged - and swiftly broken up by police - in cities across Russia.

The announcement triggered panic that men of fighting age would be turned away at the borders, although the Kremlin has dismissed reports of people fleeing to airports.

Another lawmaker played down the idea of border closures and said the government was providing support measures to those being called up to serve.

"I would like to invite all colleagues (instead of inflaming the situation) to pay attention to the issues of social support for citizens who are subject to mobilization...," Andrei Klishas, another member of the Federation Council, wrote in response to Tsekov's proposal.

Russians flee to Georgia after Putin's mobilization order

Russian men are fleeing into neighboring Georgia to avoid being called-up to fight in a war they do not agree with following Russian President Vladimir Putin's order to mobilize hundreds of thousands of reservists for the conflict in Ukraine.

At one point on Sunday, the estimated wait to enter Georgia hit 48 hours, with more than 3,000 vehicles queuing to cross the frontier, Russian state media reported, citing local officials.

The Georgian capital Tbilisi had already seen an influx of around 40,000 Russians since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to government statistics.

"When we found out about the mobilization, we dropped everything at home and jumped in the car," Dmitry Kuriliyunok told Reuters in Tbilisi.

Dmitry, his wife Irina and young daughter first drove across southern Russia from Krasnodar to Mineralnye Vody in the North Caucasus, a staging post for many crossing into Georgia. There, they hired a local driver to take them through the border checkpoints and after 24 hours they arrived in Tbilisi.

"We are completely against this war. For us, like for others, it's scary. To die and to kill others, and for what? We don't understand. Therefore, we decided to flee," he said.

The exact number of people who have left Russia since Putin announced what he called a "partial mobilization" last Wednesday is unclear. But an early picture is emerging of a substantial exodus.

Russians already in Tbilisi saw Putin's mobilization decree as further vindication of their decisions to flee.

"I came to Tbilisi about a month and a half ago because I didn't support the military invasion of Ukraine," said Ivan Streltsov, a reservist in Russia's armed forces who could have been forcibly drafted had he been in Russia.

"I took part in protests when the military operation started. For us as activists things have become very difficult at this moment. In our own motherland, we are all being watched," he said.

More than 200 men who were detained at anti-war protests in Moscow last week were issued draft summons, state media reported.

But the wave of new arrivals to Tbilisi also threatens to reignite simmering anti-Russian sentiment within Georgia - both among local people and the Russian emigrees already in the capital.

Buildings, shops, museums and parks across Tbilisi are still plastered with Ukrainian flags and pro-Kyiv messages, and graffiti telling Russians to "go home" or lambasting Putin is a common sight.

Local people resent the economic impact of tens of thousands of new arrivals on a city of just over one million, with apartment prices having rocketed over the last six months.

Some Russians, too, feel a sense of angst about the latest influx.

"They've been to protests (against mobilization), but for the first seven months of this war, everything was normal and fine for them," said Stas Gaivoronsky, a writer who owns a second-hand bookshop in Tbilisi.

"But now they've been caught up in it and are out protesting the war," he said.

Scenes such as those at the Russia-Georgia border have also taken place at crossings with Kazakhstan, Finland and Mongolia, which have all reported heavy queues. Russia has not closed its borders, and guards generally appeared to be letting people leave.

Flights departing Moscow for the few countries that maintain direct flights with Russia have either sold out or have only a handful of tickets available at astronomical prices.