“Russia is likely to be the first and only country in the world” chirp Exiled Russian dissident and oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky,“Where people flee not because someone invaded their country, but because they invaded another.”
This is not entirely true, of course. About 40,000 American defectors who tried to evade conscription in the Vietnam War crossed the border into Canada half a century ago. But their journey took place over a decade. What has happened in Russia in the less than a week since President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization to bolster the weak war effort in Ukraine, is of unparalleled magnitude.
When the mobilization was announced last week, the Kremlin was hoping to mobilize an additional 300,000 reservists. Now, many Russian men of fighting age may have left the country in an attempt to avoid conscription. They crammed flights to Turkey, swam over rivers and sat for days at border crossings that suffer from traffic jams. Kazakhstan alone has counted 98,000 Russians arriving since September 21. Georgian officials say about 10,000 Russians cross the border every day. Thousands also arrive in Mongolia.
Social media with videos of chaos and disorder is widespread within Russia. There are protest scenes, particularly in poor ethnic minority areas, where locals turn against military recruits. And there are scenes of desperation and incompetence: In one of the videos, an older officer New recruits are advised Find their own tourniquet and sleeping bags and stock up on tampons as improvised bandages. In another picture, a Russian man appears Deliberately breaking a friend’s leg To help him get away from the war.