ne-way flights out of Russia were selling out fast on Wednesday after Vladimir Putin ordered the immediate call-up of 300,000 reservists.
The Russian president’s announcement – made in an early-morning television address – raised fears that some men of fighting age would not be allowed to leave Russia.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the call-up would be limited to those with experience as professional soldiers, and that students and those who had only served as conscripts would not be called up.
But Google Trends data on Wednesday showed a spike in searches for Aviasales – Russia’s most popular website for purchasing flights.
Direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul in Turkey and Yerevan in Armenia, both destinations that allow Russians to enter without a visa, sold out on Wednesday, according to Aviasales data.
Some routes with stopovers, including those from Moscow to Tbilisi, were also unavailable, while the cheapest flights from the capital to Dubai were costing more than 300,000 roubles (more than £4,350) – about five times the average monthly wage.
During his televised address, Putin claimed that his decision to call up reservists was intended to preserve his country’s territorial integrity against what he alleged was Western aggression.
He also warned that his nuclear armed country had “lots of weapons to reply” and would use “all the means at our disposal” to retaliate, adding that his threat was “not a bluff”.
But his remarks — which follow a succession of Russian reverses on the battlefield that have seen Ukraine take back large swathes of territory — provoked a rapid international backlash.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Putin’s actions were an admission that Ukraine was winning the war, accusing him of sacrificing thousands of Russian soldiers on his failing mission.