Some flights out of Russia appeared to be selling out in the wake of President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on Wednesday of a partial military mobilization to buttress the country’s war effort in Ukraine.
It was reported that some 300,000 reservists — limited to those with relevant combat and service experience, according to Russia’s defense minister — will be called up to active duty.
On the Turkish Airlines website, a search for one-way flights from Moscow to Istanbul showed flight availability on Wednesday, then not again until Sunday, with tickets costing 81,071 rubles ($1,322). By next Tuesday, that same flight was priced at 169,704 rubles.
Flights to the Armenian capital, Yerevan, as well as to Istanbul (both Turkey and Armenia allow visa-free travel for Russians), also appeared to be sold out on Wednesday, Reuters reported, citing data from Aviasales, sometimes described as Russia’s answer to Expedia. Media reports indicated that the cost of many flights had jumped.
No flights from Moscow to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, were available, according to the Reuters report, which also noted that the least costly flights to Dubai were running more than 300,000 rubles.
Tickets for the Moscow-Belgrade flights operated by Air Serbia, the only European carrier besides Turkish Airlines to maintain flights to Russia despite a European Union flight embargo, quickly sold out over the next several days.
According to Google Trends, searches for Aviasales spiked on Wednesday.
Reports of panic spreading among Russians soon flooded social networks, while social networks in Russian were populated with advice about how to avoid the mobilization or leave the country.
Some postings alleged that people had been turned back from Russia’s land border with Georgia and that the website of the state Russian railway company had collapsed because too many people were checking for ways to get out of the country.
Putin had made no specific announcement about border closures or restrictions on travel.
In his announcement Wednesday about the mobilization of 300,000 Russian reservists with relevant combat and service experience, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that number represented only 1% of the roughly 25 million people who fit the necessary criteria.
The Associated Press contributed.