Queueing in their cars and wheeling suitcases along the road, photographs show Russians continuing to stream across the border into Georgia as they fear Putin’s mobilisation, even as the despot today delivered a ranting annexation speech in Moscow.
Roads were jampacked full of traffic as people made a desperate dash for freedom at the Kazbegi border crossing in the Kazbegi municipality of Stepantsminda.
Downcast Russians had packed their cars full of their belongings as they fled Putin’s call-up for hundreds of thousands of men to fight in his invasion of Ukraine.
The cars, which had Russian number plates, lined up near parking spots and on the road into Georgia.
Many appeared to have abandoned their vehicles or opted to flee on foot as they wheeled suitcases along the road.
Pictured: Masses of cars are seen queueing up on the Georgian border in the latest exodus of Russians from their country
Russians are seen attempting to leave their country to avoid a military call-up for the Russia-Ukraine war as queues have formed at the Kazbegi border crossing (pictured)
STEPANTSMINDA: Roads were jampacked full of traffic and people fleeing on foot as people made a desperate dash for freedom from Russia at the Kazbegi border crossing in the Kazbegi municipality of Stepantsminda
Russians are seen attempting to leave their country to avoid a military call-up for the Russia-Ukraine war as queues have formed at the Kazbegi border crossing
A Russian girl is seen driving to the border with a car packed full of her belongings (pictured)
The cars continued to stream through to the Georgian border, pictured, even as Putin made his latest speech about annexing four Ukrainian regions after a sham ballot
The latest mass exodus from Russia came as Putin today announced in a Kremlin speech that he has annexed four Ukrainian regions to Russia.
He vowed to ‘smash’ the West and liberate the world, raising fears he is gearing up to deploy Moscow’s huge nuclear arsenal.
The Russian leader, speaking in front of a large crowd of his supporters in Moscow, declared that ‘millions of people’ had ‘opted’ to become vassals of Russia after staging sham referendums in which gun-toting troops went door-to-door with clear glass ballot boxes in order to force people to vote.
‘They are our people, forever,’ he said to a standing ovation inside the Kremlin’s grand Georgian Hall before calling on Ukraine and its Western allies to abandon hopes of re-taking them, repeating a threat to use ‘all forces’ to defend ‘Russia’s new territories’.
Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of four Ukrainian regions to Russia during a speech at the Kremlin, in which he also delivered a blistering tirade against the West
Putin chants ‘Russia’ with the puppet ‘leaders’ of the four Ukrainian regions he now claims are part of his country, vowing to use ‘all forces’ to defend them – raising the fear he will resort to nukes
The speech was delivered inside the Kremlin’s grand Georgian Hall in front of hundreds of Putin’s henchmen, including the likes of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, warlord Ramzan Kadyrov, and spy chief Sergey Naryshkin
He then turned his sights on the West, recalling the horrors of both world wars, Korea, and Vietnam; the US nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; making homophobic jibes and accusing westerners of being ‘Satanists’; vowing ‘Western hegemony will be smashed’ and speaking of Russia’s ‘destiny’ to liberate the world.
Putin said the US had created ‘precedent’ to use nukes, slammed Allied bombing campaigns against Nazi Germany, spoke of the horrors of colonialism and the Opium Wars, said Germany, Korea and Japan are being ‘occupied’ by America even now, and ranted about sex changes.
His promise to protect his ‘new territories’ will be put to an almost-immediate test as thousands of Russian troops are currently thought to be encircled in Lyman, in the Donetsk region, with the city on the verge of falling and the troops either being captured or killed in the process – possibly within the next few hours.
Putin is given a standing ovation by his cronies as he delivers a blistering speech in the Kremlin in which he spoke of Russia’s ‘destiny’ to liberate the world from what he called ‘neo-colonialism’
Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov, a staunch ally of Putin, is pictured with Russian State Duma member Adam Delimkhanov (centre) and Chechen Parliament Chairman Magomed Daudov (left) during the speech
Putin officially signs a decree accepting the four occupied regions of Ukraine as new territories of Russia, paving the way for him to escalate his war against his ex-Soviet neighbour
Russians have fled to Georgia and other neighbouring countries in their droves as their fears grow over Putin and his war.
Just days ago, more photographs showed the mass exodus in action, with men, women and children seen pulling luggage beside cars with Russian licence plates parked at the Georgian side of the Verkhni Lars customs checkpoint some 125 miles outside Tbilisi.
Elsewhere, anti-war protests erupted, with brave women in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala, one of Russia’s poorest regions, holding placards and shouting ‘no to war’ as they faced down the Kremlin’s shock troops- even as riot police fired warning shots into the air to frighten them.
And now even the Russian dictator’s allies are blaming the regime’s cack-handed handling of the failed invasion, brutal clampdown on civil liberties since February 24 and forcible conscription of reservists for the exodus and the scale of the protests which have erupted across the country.
Those fleeing walk past vehicles with Russian licence plates near the Nizhniy Lars customs checkpoint between Georgia and Russia
Russians fled the country on foot in the pouring rain, while thousands of cars queued up at the border
Thousands have opted to instead flee to neighbouring countries, with photos showing people dragging suitcases across the Georgian border
The Speaker of Putin’s puppet parliament Valentina Matvienko said the use of force – including stun guns and truncheons – by officers pressing people into the Russian Army was ‘absolutely unacceptable’, adding: ‘I consider it absolutely right that they are triggering a sharp reaction in society.’
Putin’s riot police have arrested more than 2,000 anti-war protesters this week after the increasingly panicked and irrational dictator announced a mobilisation order and held the world to ransom by threatening to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine and the West.
Those fleeing, wearing ponchos and raincoats, were seen walking past vehicles with Russian licence plates near the Nizhniy Lars customs checkpoint between Georgia and Russia.
Russian authorities acknowledged a ‘significant’ influx of cars trying to cross from Russia into Georgia, with one official saying there is ‘significant congestion of private vehicles… around 2,300’.
Although the European Union is now largely off limits to most Russians, with direct flights stopped and its land borders increasingly closed to them, an exodus of Russian men fleeing military service is creating divisions among European officials over whether they should be granted safe haven.
German officials have voiced a desire to help Russian men deserting military service and have called for a European-wide solution. Germany has held out the possibility of granting asylum to deserters and those refusing the draft.
In France, senators are arguing that Europe has a duty to help and warned that not granting refuge to fleeing Russians could play into Putin’s hands, feeding his narrative of Western hostility to Russia.
‘Closing our frontiers would fit neither with our values nor our interests,’ a group of more than 40 French senators said. Turning away fleeing Russians would be ‘a mistake by Europe in the war of communication and influence that is playing out.’
Yet other EU countries are adamant that asylum should not be offered to Russian men fleeing now – when the war has moved into its eighth month. They include Lithuania, which borders Kaliningrad, a Russian Baltic Sea exclave. Its foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, tweeted: ‘Russians should stay and fight. Against Putin.’
His counterpart in Latvia, also an EU member bordering Russia, said the exodus poses ‘considerable security risks’ for the 27-nation bloc and that those fleeing now can’t be considered conscientious objectors since they did not act when Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Many ‘were fine with killing Ukrainians, they did not protest then,’ the Latvian foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, tweeted. He added that they still have ‘plenty of countries outside EU to go’.
Finland also said it intends to ‘significantly restrict’ entry to Russians entering the EU through its border with Russia. A Finnish opposition leader, Petteri Orpo, said fleeing Russian military reservists were an ‘obvious’ security risk and ‘we must put our national security first’.
Russian civilians on tourist visas are no longer allowed to enter the Nordic country.
Foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said: ‘The decision in principle aims to completely prevent Russian tourism to Finland and the related transit through Finland.’
The government justified its decision by saying that continued arrivals of Russian tourists in Finland is endangering the country’s international relations without specifying further.
Entry for family visits, as well as for work and studies, will still be permitted, he added.
Haavisto said the mobilisation order had a ‘significant impact’ on his decision.
Vehicles coming from Russia wait in lines at the Vaalimaa border check point between Finland and Russia in Virolahti
Finnish border guards check the cars at the Vaalimaa border check yesterday amid the mass exodus
At the start of the month, Finland slashed the number of visas – including for tourism purposes – issued to Russian citizens.
Only a tenth of the usual number of visas were issued in a move seen as a show of solidarity with Ukraine.
Around 200,000 Russians are believed to have fled the country in the past week, rushing to Georgia, Finland, Kazakhstan and Mongolia to escape a potential call-up to the front lines of the war.
The Interior Ministry of Georgia said over 53,000 Russians have entered the country since last week, while Interior Ministry officials in Kazakhstan said 98,000 crossed into that nation.
The Finnish Border Guard agency said over 43,000 arrived in the same period. Media reports also said another 3,000 Russians entered Mongolia, which also shares a border with the country.
The number who have fled now likely exceeds the number of troops in Putin’s original invasion forces, military intelligence suggests.
People entering Finland reach the passport control area while border guards officers check the vehicles
Fearing the border may close ‘forever’ after the Russian President’s mobilisation order for the war in Ukraine, Russians are rushing to flee across Finland’s Vaalimaa border crossing
The British Ministry of Defence said in its daily update today: ‘In the seven days since President Putin announced the ‘partial mobilisation’ there has been a considerable exodus of Russians seeking to evade call-up.
‘Whilst exact numbers are unclear, it likely exceeds the size of the total invasion force Russia fielded in February 2022.
‘The better off and well educated are over-represented amongst those attempting to leave Russia.
‘When combined with those reservists who are being mobilised, the domestic economic impact of reduced availability of labour and the acceleration of ‘brain drain’ is likely to become increasingly significant.’
The mass exodus has created miles-long lines for days at some borders, and local Russian authorities on one area along the border with Georgia said they would start providing food, water, warming stations and other aid to those in line.
At the start of the month, Finland slashed the number of visas – including for tourism purposes – issued to Russian citizens
Viktor Zakarov, a 35-year-old scientist from Saint Petersburg, holds one of his three children after passing the passport check
Relatives and taxi drivers wait for Russian tourists crossing over to Georgia from Verkhni Lars customs checkpoint
Moscow also reportedly set up draft offices at borders to intercept some of those trying to leave.
Fearing the border may close ‘forever’, Russians have in the past week been rushing to flee across Finland’s Vaalimaa crossing.
‘Many people are afraid,’ says Oleg, a bar owner from Moscow who crossed over to the Finnish side.
‘The mobilisation is a first sign that something worse might happen.’
He fears the border might ‘close forever’ and Russians ‘will live in a totalitarian state where they can’t do anything at all’.
‘I live in a country which sinks a little more every day,’ he explains.
People arriving from Russia wait at the Mongolian border checkpoint of Altanbulag as they flee conscription
Foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said: ‘The decision in principle aims to completely prevent Russian tourism to Finland and the related transit through Finland’
People entering Finland walk towards the waiting area after passing the passport control
Finland said on Monday that more Russians came to the country over the weekend than any other weekend so far this year.
Viktor Zakharov – who arrived in Finland with his partner and their three children – says he has five friends who have left Russia since the mobilisation.
While the 35-year-old scientist from Saint Petersburg does not have a military background and is not part of the mobilisation, he is worried the situation might change.
‘If you are not fit today you can be tomorrow and be in the army,’ he says, as the travellers wait patiently for their vehicles to be inspected by Finnish border guards.
Zakharov – who is headed for Israel – drove his fully packed SUV through the Russian side in 30 minutes and then spent one-and-a-half hours making his way through the Finnish crossing.
Despite being in Finland, ‘the feeling of freedom has not come yet because of the sleepless nights and the packing, and to be honest it’s not clear yet,’ he explains as he hands pieces of candy to his children.
A group of Russians walk after crossing the border at Verkhny Lars between Georgia and Russia in Georgia, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022
Passenger traffic on the border will be significantly limited, with Russian civilians on tourist visas no longer allowed to enter the Nordic country
The borders with Kazakhstan and Mongolia have been overwhelmed by an influx of Russian nationals
State employee Vadim arrived by bus. He left his mother in charge of looking after his apartment in Moscow, and hopes to return soon.
‘I have heard about many cases of young men being deported and not being able to cross because of the mobilisation,’ he says.
‘I can’t say I’m happy, I can’t with the world’s situation.’
In July, Finland passed new amendments to its Border Guard Act to facilitate the construction of sturdier fences on the Nordic country’s 800-mile eastern border with Russia.
As it stands, Finland’s borders are secured primarily with light wooden fences, mainly designed to stop livestock from wandering to the wrong side.
On Tuesday, the Finnish border guard said it believes it will be necessary to build 150 miles of barriers in high-risk areas.
‘The physical barrier itself is indispensable in a large-scale entry situation, acting as a barrier and an element of diversion for potential crowds,’ the border guard said in a statement.
The fence still requires a political decision.