Oueues have sprung up along Russia’s border as men attempt to leave the country amid a military call-up for war in Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin announced a partial military mobilisation on Wednesday, which could see 300,000 people summoned to serve in the war.
The Kremlin says reports of fighting-age men fleeing are exaggerated.
One man, who did not want to be named, told the BBC’s Rayhan Demytrie he had grabbed his passport and headed to the border, without packing anything else, immediately after President’ Putin’s announcement – because he fell into the group that could potentially be sent to the war.
Georgia and Finland are one of the few neighbouring countries that Russians can enter without requiring a visa for travel.There were also reports about car traffic, on the border with Georgia, miles-long queues of vehicles have formed including men trying to escape the war.
Other destinations reachable by air – such as Istanbul, Belgrade or Dubai – have seen ticket prices skyrocket immediately after the military call-up was announced, with some destinations sold out completely.
The call-up sparked protests in major Russian cities including Moscow and St Petersburg on Tuesday, resulting in a reported 1,300 arrests.
There were also reports from Russia that some of those detained for protesting had been handed draft papers while in custody at police stations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, when asked about the reports, said that doing so was not against the law.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence, commenting on the call-up in its Wednesday morning briefing, noted that the mobilisation “is likely to be highly unpopular with parts of the Russian population”.
“Putin is accepting considerable political risk in the hope of generating much-needed combat power. The move is effectively an admission that Russia has exhausted its supply of willing volunteers to fight in Ukraine,” it said.
Russian officials insist the call-up will be limited to those who had completed military service, and fall short of widespread conscription.
According to independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper, which moved its operations to Europe amid a post-war crackdown on media, reported that Vladimir Putin’s decree contains an additional paragraph which has been classified and kept secret.
The newspaper alleges that the secret paragraph allows for a call-up of up to a million people, rather than the reported 300,000, citing an unnamed government source.