Within hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin early Wednesday called up some 300,000 reservists as part of his “partial mobilization” due to the military operation in Ukraine, virtually all Russian flights abroad over the coming days have been reported as sold out.
The Moscow Times reports that “Flights from Moscow to the capitals of Georgia, Turkey and Armenia — which do not require visas for Russians — for Sept. 21 were unavailable within minutes of Putin’s announcement, according to Russia’s top travel planning website aviasales.ru.”
It’s as yet unclear the precise extent of who will be called up, but Russia’s military boasts access to some 25 million total reservists.
“By noon Moscow time, direct flights from Moscow to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan had also stopped showing up on the website,” Moscow Times continues.
Within hours after these initial local reports, air travel monitoring sites said that Russia’s domestic airlines halted all sales of tickets abroad to Russian men aged 18 to 65; however, these can reportedly have a waiver from the Ministry of Defense.
Land borders, particularly with Georgia in the south and Finland to the west, have also seen a reported surge in activity.
State-owned Aeroflot quickly sold out of all tickets to Istanbul – a longtime popular vacation destination for Russians – for at least the next three days, based on what its website shows. There are no spots left for Yerevan, Armenia through the weekend either.
The sudden attempt of some to evade being called up by the defence ministry also resulted in a spike in ticket prices, as one report out of Serbia noted, “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, sold out for the next several days.”
The report indicated, “The price for flights from Moscow to Istanbul or Dubai increased within minutes before jumping again, reaching as high as 9,200 euros ($9,119) for a one-way economy class fare.”