September 25, 2022 Russia-Ukraine News

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Tension was in the air as a long line of cars lined up near the Petkuhovo checkpoint on the Russia-Kazakhstan border late Friday night.

Andrei Alekseev, a 27-year-old engineer from the city of Yekaterinburg, was among many men in the queue fleeing Russia following mobilization orders from President Vladimir Putin.

Cars had to pass Russian and Kazakh border controls, both of which took around two hours.

Alekseev woke up Wednesday morning to the news of Putin’s mobilization order and knew he had to flee Russia. He met with his friends that evening to discuss their next steps and decided to avoid taking any risks and leave Russia with no plan in mind.

“At the border, all the men were asked if they had served in the army and what their category of military service was,” Alekseev told CNN.

“I felt the border guards were very understanding, however, I had friends who crossed the border into Kazakhstan at another checkpoint and they were faced with grueling questions, it took them seven hours to cross,” he told CNN.

Kirill Ponomarev, 23, who also fled Russia via the Kazakhstan border, said he had trouble booking a ticket. The day before Putin’s speech, he was looking for tickets to Russia.

“For some reason, I couldn’t buy a ticket the day before while I was waiting for Putin’s speech. And then I fell asleep without buying a ticket, when I woke up the ticket prices jumped,” Ponomarev told CNN.

Men rushed to the borders, exchanging tips on Telegram channels and among friends. One-way flights from Russia sold out within hours of the mobilization announcement.

Four of the five European Union countries bordering Russia have banned entry to Russians with tourist visas, while queues to cross Russia’s land borders into the former Soviet countries of Kazakhstan, Georgia and Armenia take over 24 hours to cross.

You can read Pavlova’s full report here.

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