Report: Russia’s War Call-Up Prompts Run on Airline Seats

Flights out of Russia are reportedly selling out as citizens attempt to flee the country following the announcement of a new military mobilization against Ukraine.

Russia’s flag carrier Aeroflot said Wednesday it had not “yet” been ordered to ban ticket sales to military-aged men, according to a report. [File Photo: Shutterstock]

One-way tickets out of Russia have reportedly become a hot commodity following President Vladimir Putin's announcement that hundreds of thousands of the country's military reservists would be mobilized immediately to fight in Ukraine. 

The news has sparked protests and prompted reports of a massive surge in airline ticket sales for flights out of the country, as Russians—many of whom are military-aged men—scramble to flee.

The mass exodus of men has been so abundant, according to some reports, that Russian airlines and railways are said to be refusing to sell tickets to military-aged men aged 18 to 65 years old. Russia's flag carrier Aeroflot, however, denied the report, saying Wednesday it had not "yet" been ordered to ban ticket sales," The Moscow Times reported. 

Putin announced Wednesday that military reservists would be called up for a "special operation," as part of the country's escalation of its invasion of Ukraine and annexation of four of its regions. The move represents Russia's largest military mobilization effort since World War II.

“I reiterate, we are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be subject to conscription, and above all, those who served in the armed forces have a certain military specialty and relevant experience," Putin said in the recorded message reported by CNBC. "Conscripts will obligatorily go through additional military training based on the experience of the special military operation before departing to the units."

Following Putin's announcement, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said 300,000 reservists would be drafted into service under the mobilization plan. 

Nearly 6,000 Russian soldiers had been killed since the invasion began in February, Shoigu said. Ukrainian officials, however, say that number is more than nine times higher–reporting that approximately 55,000 soldiers have been killed in the conflict so far.

"How long will Russia's war against Ukraine last if it continues until all mobilized troops are killed," Ukraine's Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov responded on social media.

The news sent an immediate shockwave through Russia, prompting spikes in ticket sales and prices as residents sought to leave the country before the mobilization plan was put into play. 

Flights from Moscow to Belgrade, Serbia, scheduled for the next several days sold out following Putin's speech, as one-way economy tickets to Istanbul or Dubai increased to as much as 9,200 euros, or about $9,119, the Associated Press reported. 

International flights to countries that didn't require visas for Russian travelers, such as Georgia, Turkey, and Armenia sold out "within minutes" of the speech, The Moscow Times reported.

Protests against the mobilization plan broke out across Russia Wednesday night, leading to the detention of an estimated 1,300 people in 38 cities, some drafted directly into military service, a spokesperson for OVD-Info, an independent monitoring organization, told CNN.

In the seven months following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, an estimated 14,059 civilian casualties have been confirmed, including 5,767 civilian deaths, according to the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission. “As we have repeatedly said, we know that actual numbers are likely considerably higher,” mission head Matilda Bogner told reporters earlier this month. 

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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