Vladimir Putin’s conscription has “changed everything” for droves of Russians who have fled their country since the mobilization was announced last month, according to recent arrivals in Istanbul.
Niki Proshin, 28, left St. Petersburg this week as large numbers of men fled after the September 21 declaration of “partial mobilization” for the war in Ukraine.
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“Last week changed everything for hundreds of thousands of other people who decided to leave Russia,” he said. “The main reason is the risk of being drafted into the Russian army.”
Turkey, which maintained air links with Russia while other countries blocked flights, was a popular destination for those wanting to go anywhere they could get.
Proshin, a YouTube vlogger originally from the Siberian city of Omsk, said battlefield setbacks have eroded support for the war, even among “patriotic” Russians.
“Right now, when the Russian army is struggling and the Ukrainian army is pushing them out of their country, people who supported this war say they don’t understand why this war is happening,” he said.
“They don’t want this war and they don’t want to lose their friends, husbands, brothers or themselves.”
Proshin said his family is “very relieved” that he left Russia and now plans to wait for his girlfriend to join him before leaving for another country.
Eva Rapoport, the Istanbul coordinator of Ark, a group that helps Russians flee their country, said there has been a significant increase in the number of people arriving in Turkey since the mobilization statement.
“There are more people fleeing, more people in dire need of help, shelter and there are more requests for information, legal advice,” she said.
“Nobody wants to stay and die for (Vladimir) Putin, so it’s really difficult to travel abroad when you can’t use your bank accounts.” Report.
Many Russians who arrived in Turkey after the war began suffered shock from the invasion, she said, as well as difficulties finding housing or paying for goods due to sanctions on Russia’s financial sector.
Maxim Bocharov is one of those disillusioned with Putin’s Russia. At an anti-war demonstration near the Russian consulate in Istanbul, he said he had taken part in protests against the invasion of Moscow.
“This mobilization was the last step for me,” said the former sales manager. “I want to say to the Ukrainian people that not every Russian is like a brainwashed zombie.”
Referring to his new life in Istanbul, where he landed two days after the draft was announced, he added: “It’s the first time in my life that I feel really free.”
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