Russian men flee Russia as air tickets soar

Russian men flee Russia as air tickets soar

Several Russian men have rushed for the exits after President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilisation, with traffic at border crossings with Finland and Georgia surging and prices for plane tickets from Moscow skyrocketing.

On Wednesday, Putin ordered Russia's first mobilisation since World War Two and supported 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 prices for flights from Moscow went above US 5,000 $7,000 for one-way tickets to the nearest foreign destinations, with most air tickets sold out completely for the 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 places to run away from Russia right now. There were long tailbacks at border crossings with Georgia.

Sergei, a Russian man who refused to give his surname, told Reuters as he arrived in Belgrade, Serbian capital.

One Russian man who gave his name as Alex told Reuters in Istanbul that he had left Russia partly due to the mobilization.

He said that partial mobilisation is one of the reasons why I am here.

He said that he felt that not many Russians would want to be sent to fight.

A Russian boy who gave his name only as Vasily arrived in Istanbul with his wife, teenage daughter and six suitcases.

The mobilisation was unavoidable because of the shortage of human resources. He said that I am not worried because I'm already 59 years old and my son lives abroad.

The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that reports of an exodus of draft-age men were exaggerated.

Asked about reports that men were being held at anti-war protests were being given draft papers, Mr Peskov said it was not against the law.

Russian state-owned pollsters say more than 70 per cent of Russians support what the Kremlin calls the special military operation, although polling leaked in July showed an even split between those who wanted to stop or continue.

The war in Ukraine has killed tens of thousands, caused an inflation wave through the global economy and triggered the worst confrontation with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when many feared nuclear war imminent.

A tourism industry source told Reuters there was desperation as people tried to find air tickets from Russia.

The Finnish border guard said traffic arriving at Finland's eastern border with Russia intensified overnight and remained elevated into daytime hours on Thursday.

The Finnish border guard's head of international affairs, Matti Pitkaniitty, told Reuters that the situation was under control and border guards were ready at nine checkpoints.

Traffic from Russia was busier than normal at Vaalimaa crossing - one of nine with Russia - with three lanes of cars each stretching for 300 -- 400 metres, a border official told Reuters.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, the other EU countries that border Russian territory, have started turning away Russians from crossings at midnight on Monday, saying they should not travel while their country is at war with Ukraine.

Aeroflot, the Russian national airline, said it would refund people who were unable to fly as planned because they had received a call-up.

More than 1,300 people were arrested in Russia on Wednesday after protests by Russian police denouncing mobilisation, a rights group said.

A military commissar ordered a call for mobilisation in the far eastern region of Yakutia.