The war enters the Russian houses

After the announcement of the partial mobilization of 300,000 reservists made on Wednesday by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Google detected a significant increase in searches such as “how to break an arm at home” or “how to leave Russia”. Direct flights from Moscow to Turkey or Armenia – destinations that allow the entry of Russians without a visa – were sold out that same day, as well as routes with a stopover to Georgia or Serbia, and the cheapest flights to Dubai were sold for about 5,000 euros ( about five times the median wage). By land, the Finnish border guard reported that the entry of Russian vehicles had “intensified”, and long queues were recorded at the borders with Georgia and Kazakhstan. “The situation is one of authentic panic”, he explains to The vanguard a high western official.

The war in Ukraine has entered Russian homes overnight. Until now, the “special operation” started on February 24 was a matter of the regular army and the volunteers. Now, for the first time since World War II and breaking all his promises, Putin calls for a mobilization that is perceived as total.

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“Until now the war was something distant, you couldn’t feel it unless you were in Belgorod [en la fron­tera con Ucrania]. Now they are receiving invitations to go to the military commissary not only in poor regions, as before, but also in big cities. Everyone will feel the war”, explains Stanislav Secrieru, an analyst at the European Union Institute for Security Studies (Euiss), who visited Barcelona this week invited by Cidob.

Stories circulate of mothers asking their doctors to put their children under anesthesia and break their arms or legs, or of men begging their doctors to sign papers certifying that they have AIDS or contagious diseases. “I don’t think there are that many patriots. It is one thing to sit in front of the TV or write on social networks about Great Russia and another thing is to go to war and die,” says Fyodor Krasheninnikov, a Russian journalist and political analyst declared a “foreign agent” from exile in Vilnius. the Kremlin. After the announcement of mobilization, many Russians feel that they have only three options left: war, jail or exile. “And not everyone can go into exile,” he points out.

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St. Petersburg (Russian Federation), 09/23/2022.- Russian soldiers salute an officer during the guard of a rally in support of the Donbass region joining the Russian Federation at Peter&Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia, 23 September 2022. From September 23 to 27, residents of the Donetsk People's Republic, Luhansk People's Republic, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions will vote in the Referendum to join the Russian Federation.  Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Russian Federation will ensure security at referendums in the DPR, LPR, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions and support their results.  (Russia, Moscow, Saint Petersburg) EFE/EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV

It is not known how many people have left Russia since the start of the war. There are sources that raise that figure to a million, of which 250,000 in Moscow alone. And, judging by what is happening in the first days after the announcement, the exodus is accelerating. “Liberal professionals and the information technology sector are leaving en masse,” say Western sources. The brain drain is evident in countries like Georgia or Armenia, where companies with European clients trying to escape sanctions are setting up. “In Georgia, the Russians have bought about 4,000 apartments in Batumi and Tbilisi in half a year. Before the war, the Russians owned 16,000 apartments. Some 40,000 Russians have settled in Armenia since the start of the war. These numbers will grow significantly”, says Secrieru, who warns of the increase in sales and rental prices in these countries.

Since the start of the war, the Russians have bought 4,000 houses in Georgia, raising prices

“I think we are only beginning to understand all the ramifications of Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine. And I think its effects will stay with us for decades to come,” she maintains. “The mobilization of 300,000 people deprives the Russian economy of labor, and in Russia there was already a shortage, which was compensated by immigrants from Central Asia. I don’t think they want to come in large numbers now because of the danger of being recruited and sent to the front, even illegally. Is not safe. This will end up having an impact, because these people will stop sending money to their families. So the mobilization can not only destroy the Russian economy, but it will be felt throughout the region,” Secrieru argues.

This wave of Russians trying to leave the country could also affect European countries, which this week have unsuccessfully debated how to deal with these deserters . It is a “moral dilemma”, indicate Western sources, who criticize the position of the Baltic countries, which are committed to prohibiting them from entering. This avenue could fuel Putin’s rhetoric about the West’s anti-Russian crusade. “You have to win the narrative war,” they maintain.

“All Russian émigrés are against Putin. If you are in favor, you live well in Russia, without problems. It would be good for Europe, for the West and for democracy to help them”, says Krasheninnikov. “Every Russian émigré in Europe is one less soldier for Putin,” he adds.

“I lived in the USSR and I remember how everyone hated the war in Afghanistan. Who could pay bribes so that their children would not go. He will happen again. The rich will buy their freedom because the system is deeply corrupt and for many military men it is a business. It is a very cynical system, human life has an insignificant value”, says Secrieru.

“It is one thing to write on social media about Great Russia and another thing to go to war and die”

Hours after the announcement of the mobilization, the first videos of men saying goodbye to their relatives on the way to the recruitment centers began to circulate. Chechens, Dagestanis, Yakuts… recruits from remote and poor regions. An official exhorted a group in Dagestan to fight “for the future”, to which a man responded: “What future, if we don’t even have a present?”. Meanwhile, from Moscow, Nikolai Peskov, son of the Kremlin spokesman, Dimitri Peskov, fell into a telephone trap by the opposition team Alexei Navalny. Making him believe that it was a call from an army officer, they summoned him to a recruitment center the next day. “You must understand that, being a Peskov, it is not right for me to be there,” he would reply. At the insistence of the soldier, Nikolai settled: “I will solve the issue at another level.” This Friday, his father said that the Russians had reacted to the announcement of the mobilization in a “hysterical” way.