Kremlin says it has yet to agree on whether to seal Russian border to prevent Exodus of military-aged men fleeing the country Several days of chaotic scenes occurred during part of the mobilization of the Ukrainian war.
Asked about the prospect of border closures on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “I don’t know anything about it. At the moment, nothing has been decided on it.”
Reports of Russia’s possible border closure have fueled unrest since President Vladimir Putin Ordered last week Hundreds of thousands of reservists have been called up in the biggest escalation of the seven-month war in Ukraine.
Flights out of Russia have been sold out, cars are piling up at border checkpoints, and queues have been reported for 48 hours at the only road border to Georgia, a rare pro-Western neighbor that allows Russian citizens visa-free entry.
“Panic. Everyone I know is in panic,” David, a Russian who gave only his name for fear of reprisals, said in an interview with the Associated Press news agency at the border crossing with Georgia. “We are fleeing a regime that kills.”
Long queues of cars were also seen on the road to the border crossing between Kazakhstan and Mongolia.
“In the current situation, all those who have reached the age of conscription should be banned from traveling abroad,” Sergei Tsekov, a senior lawmaker representing Russia’s annexed Crimea in the upper house of Russia’s parliament, told RIA Novosti.
Two exiled news sites — Meduza and Novaya Gazeta Europe — both reported, citing unidentified officials, that authorities were planning to bar men from leaving.
“General confusion and anger”
Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall reported from Moscow that there was widespread confusion and anger in Russia over the Kremlin’s practice of recruiting reservists.
“A lot of people don’t understand what’s going on — who should go and who shouldn’t,” Wahl said, adding that anti-conscription protests have been held across the country in recent days.
“It’s a complicated situation. Russia has not announced such a mobilization since World War II, neither on the government’s side nor on the people’s side, and has no experience of doing it,” he added.
Along with the military mobilization, Putin declared: Moscow to vote on annexation Four Ukrainian provinces occupied by its forces. The West has branded the vote, due to end on Tuesday, as a false pretext to seize territory occupied by force.
The military call-up has sparked the first sustained protests in Russia since the war began, with one monitoring group estimating that at least 2,000 people have been arrested so far. All “special military operations” that publicly criticize Ukraine are banned.
In the past few days, sustained criticism of the authorities has emerged in the government-controlled media for the first time since the war began, with pro-Kremlin commentators accusing officials of calling in people too old to fight.
On a talk show on Russia’s main state channel, pro-Kremlin commentators demanded harsh punishment for recruiting officers who called in the wrong people.
“Can we shoot them?” host Vladimir Solovyov asked. “I’m in favor. I’ll publicly drag out several of these recruiting officers,” he said. “Grab that conscription officer by the ear and send him to the front lines in the Donbass!”
Peskov acknowledged that some call-ups were issued in error, saying regional governors and the Department of Defense were correcting the error.
Russia treats millions of former conscripts as official reservists. Authorities did not specify who would be called up — part of Putin’s order is classified — but said they would call up 300,000 people, most of them with recent military experience.
Meanwhile, the British Ministry of Defence said on Monday that “tens of thousands” of candidates had been ordered. They are expected to be dispatched quickly to the front lines, where they “may suffer from high attrition rates”, it said.
“The lack of military trainers and the hasty start of Russia’s mobilization suggest that many of the recruited troops will be deployed to the front lines with minimal relevant preparation.”
Pictures circulating on the internet showed crowds clashing with police, especially in areas dominated by ethnic minorities such as Muslim Dagestan in the south and Buryatia in Siberia, home to Mongolian Buddhists.
Local news outlet Kavkaz Realii said more than 70 people were arrested during a protest against the mobilization in Makhachkala, the regional capital of Dagestan. It said security forces used stun guns, batons and pepper spray on protesters.