Sharp increase in demand for flights out of Moscow after Putin’s announcement

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Travel agency websites in Russia showed on Wednesday a dramatic increase in demand for flights to visa-free destinations for Russians. Flight sales websites in Russia indicate that all direct flights to countries that do not require a Russian visa are sold out through at least Friday.

Direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul, Yerevan in Armenia and Baku in Azerbaijan are among those that have filled up, according to ticket aggregator websites.

According to Google Trends, the phrase “leaving Russia” saw a sharp increase in searches among Russians over the past 24 hours.

Google Trends data also showed a sharp increase in Russians searching for “Aviasales” – a leading Russian flight sales engine. The number had quadrupled in 24 hours, with most searches coming from Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Protests erupted in the streets of Russia after Putin announced a partial mobilization of citizens. Some protesters clash with police and are reportedly immediately called in, while other Russians seek to flee the country. CNN’s Clare Sebastian reports.

According to ticket aggregator Aviasale, one-way tickets on Friday from Moscow to Istanbul start at $2,715 per person. ticket. Before President Putin’s mobilization announcement, tickets cost about $350.

Russian state airline Aeroflot’s website showed that all economy class tickets to Armenia are sold out until September 28.

Aeroflot said in a statement: “Due to inquiries from passengers and the media, we would like to inform you that Aeroflot Group airlines are operating as normal. There are no restrictions on ticket sales.”

The number of attempts to flee from country to country also increased. Traffic on Finland’s eastern border with Russia intensified overnight Thursday, a Finnish border guard official said in a tweet.

The border guard’s head of international affairs, Matti Pitkaniitty, said in a tweet that 4,824 Russians arrived in Finland via the country’s eastern border on Wednesday night.

He added that this traffic is “lower than [a] normal weekend,” but was significantly higher than the 3,133 Russians who arrived via the border last Wednesday.

Thursday morning traffic was also busy, he said.

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen said that Finland is closely monitoring the situation in Russia following the Kremlin’s announcement of “partial mobilization”.

The surge in demand for flights out of the country and in traffic at the Finnish border followed Putin’s speech on Wednesday morning, an intervention that threatened to escalate his faltering invasion of Ukraine. The “partial mobilization” of citizens means that those in the reserve can be called up and those with military experience will be subject to conscription, Putin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for a partial military mobilization in Russia amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh reports.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said this on Russian television on Wednesday morning 300,000 reservists would be called up. Putin added that the relevant decree had already been signed and was in force.
The flurry of online searches for flights out of Russia may indicate growing dissent over the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine. On Monday Russian pop legend Alla Pugacheva was the latest high-profile Russian to express opposition to the war. She called for an end to Russian soldiers “dying for illusory goals that make our country a pariah”.

While Putin’s speech on Wednesday has serious implications for parts of the Russian population, it also sent further warning shots to the West. The president said he would use “all the means at our disposal” and even raised the possibility of using nuclear weapons if he deemed Russia’s “territorial integrity” threatened.

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