Some Russians detained while protesting against President Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilisation have been handed draft papers while in custody, the OVD-Info rights group said on Thursday.
Since Putin on Wednesday announced the first large-scale mobilisation in Russia since the second World War, flights to leave the country have sold out and protests have been held — and swiftly broken up by police - in cities across Russia.
OVD-Info said at least 1,310 protesters had been detained, and some had been presented with summonses to enlist. One protester in Moscow was told they faced a 10-year jail sentence for refusing to receive an enlistment order, it said.
Under Russian law, police have the power to stop people who are thought to be evading mobilisation. The law provides for lengthy, years-long prison terms and hefty fines for those dodging the draft without legal grounds for exemption.
“Information was received from 15 police departments that the detained men were handed a summons to the military registration and enlistment office,” OVD-Info said in a statement.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to deny reports that some protesters had been given draft papers, saying only: “This is not against the law.” The police could not be reached for immediate comment, nor could the draft office.
Journalists have also reportedly been ordered to enlist. Russian TV channel Dozhd said that Artem Kriger, a journalist at the Sota news site, was given a draft summons after being arrested while covering anti-mobilisation protests in Moscow.
Some Russian men rushed for the borders on Thursday after Putin’s mobilisation order, with traffic at frontier crossings with Finland and Georgia surging and prices for air tickets from Moscow rocketing.
Finland’s border service reported a 50 per cent surge in car traffic overnight and Georgian TV broadcast long lines on the Russian side of the border. Google data showed a spike in search requests for “how to leave Russia and even “how to break an arm”. Social media were flooded with reports of soaring airline ticket prices.
A travel agent in Belgrade said tickets on Air Serbia, which offers the only flights from Russia to Europe, are sold out. “Until very recently, passengers looking to fly out of Moscow immediately had to wait for several days, maybe a week. Now there’s nothing, not even with stopovers until mid-October, said Viza Air Travel agent Verica, who declined to give her last name. — Reuters, Bloomberg