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Nearly 1,200 arrested in dozens of Russian cities over anti-war protests

Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s statement that he will step up efforts in Ukraine by calling up 300,000 Russian reservists has not gone down well with men aged 18 to 65 who might be called up.

The price of one-way plane tickets from Russia to visa-free destinations soared on Thursday and then sold out completely. Land traffic across Russia’s borders has also resumed, although European news agencies have disputed the more sensational allegations of 20-mile traffic jams at Finnish checkpoints.

Reuters reported flights from Moscow to Turkey and Armenia, two major destinations that Russian citizens can visit without applying for visas, which rose in price by up to 500% before selling out. Flights to Dubai would still be available on Thursday morning, but only at exorbitant prices.

“It used to be possible to buy a one-way ticket in the morning for 200,000 rubles to 300,000 rubles, but not anymore. It is a panic request from people, who are afraid that they will not be able to leave the country afterwards,” a tourism industry source told Reuters.

Russian social media was buzzing with claims that railways and airlines had stopped selling tickets to men likely to be drafted, possibly on direct orders from the Kremlin:

The Kremlin declined to comment on the reports, while Russian tourism officials insisted no travel restrictions had yet been imposed. A Russian journalist who visited an airport reported that border agents question male passengers about their military status and demand to see return tickets, but there have been no verified accounts of passengers being refused permission to board planes.

The Moscow time Thursday, cited reports of a huge increase in traffic at several Russian land borders, coupled with some denials from customs officials that the congestion was as bad as it appeared on social media videos:

In the South Caucasus, eyewitnesses claimed the Russia-Georgia border had ‘collapsed’ with crushing traffic, according to videos shared by Ekho Kavkaza, the regional service of the RFE/RL news organization funded by United States.

Similar traffic jams were filmed near Russia’s borders with Mongolia, although the country’s customs service denied there were any traffic jams at the border post.

In the central Asian republic of Kazakhstan – whose common border with Russia is the longest in the world – social media users shared images of a seemingly endless line of cars and trucks waiting to cross.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have warned they will divert Russians seeking refuge against Putin’s mobilization orders, the Moscow time Noted.

The most sensational stories have come from the border with Finland, which offers one of the few routes into Europe for Russians.

Finnish civil servants said On Thursday, traffic from Russia ‘intensified’ after Putin announced the mobilization and said he was considering closing the border to protect Finnish national security, but he denied reports of lines of 35 kilometers forming at border checkpoints.

A statement from Finland’s border guards said reports of huge traffic jams were “incorrect and misleading”. European press agencies investigation and discovered that some of the most amazing photos and videos of cars piled up at the Finnish border were taken days or weeks ago, and while some of the cars crossing the border did indeed contain Russians who said they might not be coming back from their Europe vacation soon, the cars were rolling.

Protests resumed in Russia after the mobilization was announced:

Euronews and Associated Press reported nearly 1,200 arrests during demonstrations in 37 cities, even though demonstrating against Putin’s war is strictly illegal and the penalty can be up to 15 years in prison.

“Bald fucking crackpot!” He’s gonna drop a bomb on us, and we’re still protecting him. Enough said,” a woman in a wheelchair in Yekaterinburg reportedly shouted on Thursday as dozens of protesters were herded onto prison buses by police.

A watchdog group called OVD-Info said Thursday that Russia is recruiting some of the anti-war protesters, telling detainees that fighting in Ukraine is their only alternative to long prison sentences.

OVD-Info noted that more than half of the protesters are women, a remarkably high percentage for Russia. One of the first protest groups to arrange after Putin invaded Ukraine in February calls itself the “feminist anti-war resistance”.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) Noted that 18 journalists were among those arrested during protests in Russia on Wednesday. The EFJ demanded the immediate release of all imprisoned protesters.

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