Large numbers of Russians on Wednesday rushed to fly to countries they can enter visa free, with Turkey among the most popular, after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization for the war in Ukraine, according to media reports.
Putin stated in a pre-recorded national address on Wednesday that he would mobilize reservists who have combat and service experience and that the number of people called to active duty would be determined by the Defense Ministry.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said later that 300,000 reservists would initially be mobilized.
Although Russian officials sought to calm the public about the call-up by underlining that it would affect a limited number of people meeting certain criteria, conflicting statements and a lack of details helped fuel panic among Russians.
According to a report by Al-Monitor on Wednesday, the fare for international flights from Russia to countries such as Turkey, Serbia, Albania and Georgia, where Russians can enter without a visa, jumped within hours following Putin’s announcement.
The cost of a one-way ticket from Moscow to İstanbul ranges from $1,500 to $4,000, up by more than 100 percent, Al-Monitor said, citing Google Flights search data, adding that all flights on Turkish airlines, including the country’s flag carrier, Turkish Airlines, and budget carrier Pegasus, were booked until Sunday.
Tickets for 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 for the next several days, The Associated Press also reported on Wednesday, adding that the fare for flights from Moscow to İstanbul and Dubai increased within minutes before jumping again, reaching as high as 9,200 euros ($9,119) for a one-way economy class fare.
This photo was reportedly taken at Vnukovo airport, one of four international airports in #Moscow, #Russia, this morning. Day 2 after the announcement of "partial mobilisation" in Russia. pic.twitter.com/kvCfIXWLLk
— Alex Kokcharov (@AlexKokcharov) September 22, 2022
A group based in Serbia called “Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians and Serbs Together Against War” tweeted that there were no available flights to Belgrade from Russia until mid-October. Flights to Turkey, Georgia and Armenia also sold out, according to the Belgrade-based group.
Nema letova za Beograd do sredine oktobra pic.twitter.com/ud9rCWT1jE
— Rusi, Ukrajinci, Belorusi i Srbi Protiv rata (@ProtivRata) September 21, 2022
Andrei Kartapolov, head of the Duma’s defense committee, said there would be no additional restrictions on reservists leaving Russia based on the mobilization but advised individuals who could be eligible for the call-up against “traveling to resorts in Turkey.”
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the number of Russians fleeing to Turkey significantly increased, with thousands, especially young and white-collar Russians, pouring into the country’s major cities, including İstanbul, İzmir and Antalya, mainly to travel on to Europe.
Although the amount foreigners are required to pay for a piece of real estate to be eligible for Turkish citizenship increased from $250,000 to $400,000 in April, Russian nationals topped the list of foreign homebuyers in Turkey for the first time in May with more than 1,000 sales.
The influx also prompted Turkish banks to start using Russia’s national payment system, known as Mir, for Russians who can’t use their credit cards due to sanctions. However, two Turkish banks announced that they had stopped using the system following the US Treasury’s announcement of sanctions expansion for financial institutions using Mir.