Partial mobilization of President Putin is underway, but the scope remains unclear. Technically, it’s a draft for those with previous army experience, although reports from some Russian cities, particularly in eastern Siberia, suggest it’s more of a 100 percent policy. While many Russians try to flee the country, airlines are reporting capacity shortages, while several western countries with land borders have closed their borders.
Russians leaving by plane in an emergency need to fly to countries that do not require a Russian visa and are friendly to them. Popular choices were Turkey, Dubai, Armenia and the former Soviet republics known as Stans. Direct flights, as reported by popular online ticket agency Aviasales, are full, although prices are escalating daily. A single economy class trip to Dubai has climbed to over $5,000.
Thailand looks attractive as Russians are visa-free for 30 days (soon to be 45 days) when entering by plane, while Thailand’s tourism authorities are trying to expand all international customers. There are currently no direct flights between Moscow and Bangkok, while Aeroflot’s intention to resume the route to Phuket is not scheduled to begin until late next month.
Thai Airways suspended its direct Moscow route earlier this summer, ostensibly due to a shortage of spare parts in Russia caused by Western sanctions. There are rumors of charter flights from various Russian cities to Bangkok and U-Tapao, but Skyscanner says there are no tickets available yet. One of the problems with charter flights is that passengers are expected to return home on the pre-arranged flight, while the latest Russian travelers may want a longer layover. However, the Thai visa regulations are certainly flexible enough to create extensions on the fly.
Another question is whether the Russian authorities will allow unrestricted travel. Although Aeroflot claims to sell tickets to everyone, while Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says there are no restrictions, some airlines in Moscow are already telling customers that they will stop selling tickets to males between 18 and 65 without a passport become the Department of Defense.
Chonburi immigration officials say the number of Russians arriving has not yet increased significantly. A Moscow couple told the Pattaya Mail they traveled indirectly via the Middle East to avoid conscription. A Russian woman who happened to be visiting relatives in southern China said she used the China-Laos train express and entered Thailand via the Friendship Bridge in Vientiane. A busy agency alongside Jomtien’s immigration department said it had received multiple requests for the elite visa and 10-year residency visa from Russian arrivals.