Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization to reinforce his troops in Ukraine on Wednesday caused a stampede on airline websites to try to get out of Russia as soon as possible.
The mobilization initially affected 300,000 reservists but, according to the Defense Ministry, a total of 25 million Russians are mobilizable to join the ranks of the Army in eastern and southern Ukraine.
According to the statistical tool Google Trends, which allows knowing the frequency with which a word is typed in Google, searches in Russia with the terms “tickets” and “airplane” have more than doubled since 06:00 GMT on Wednesday, at the beginning of the recorded television speech by Vladimir Putin.
The Belgorod region, which borders the north-east of Ukraine and has been repeatedly affected by Ukrainian attacks since the end of February, ranks first in the list of places where such Internet searches have been carried out.
Tickets for direct flights to the closest destinations – Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan or Kazakhstan – are sold out for Wednesday, according to the Aviasales site, very popular in Russia.
In the direction of Istanbul, with Turkish Airlines, one of the main routes out of the country by plane since Western sanctions and the closure of European airspace, “all flights are full” until Saturday.
In AirSerbia, to reach Belgrade, the next flight with available seats is for Monday 26.
Prices for domestic airline tickets to cities near the borders have skyrocketed, as evidenced by tickets being offered from Moscow to Vladikavkaz (south) for more than $750, compared to just $70 normally.
At the beginning of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, there was a first exodus of Russians who opposed the assault or feared mobilization.