Putin facing 'considerable exodus' from Russia as 'significant' brain drain to hit economy

During a televised address on September 21, the Russian leader announced the partial mobilisation of 300,000 draftees – its first mobilisation since World War 2. In the eight days that have followed, Putin faces a “considerable exodus” of Russians seeking to evade call-up as thousands have already fled the country, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said. 

The MoD said the exact number of people fleeing Russia is unclear but “it likely exceeds the size of the total invasion force” deployed into Ukraine when Moscow first invaded the country in February. 

The defence ministry said: “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.”

Putin stopped short of a general mobilisation, which would see an estimated 20 million Russians conscripted to fight in combat. 

But hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens are believed to have fled the country so far to avoid being dragged into fighting Putin’s war. 

Flights out of Russia have rocketed in price and are selling out fast, while cars have piled up at border checkpoints, with reports of a 48-hour queue at the sole road border to Georgia.

Some reports from border crossings with Georgia, Finland and other countries indicate Russian authorities have stopped some military-aged men from fleeing and enlisted them on the spot.

However, the Kremlin on Monday said no decision has been taken yet on whether to seal Russia’s borders to stop people from leaving. 

READ MORE: Moscow now blames Russian citizens for mobilisation errors

Thousands of citizens fled Russia after Putin’s regime invaded Ukraine in February, but now an even bigger exodus is taking place following the mobilisation announcement.

The exodus is adding to economic problems already caused by international sanctions, Western officials say.

With the loss of skilled and educated Russians who are unlikely to return in the short term, the domestic economy will take a significant hit, the MoD reports. 

Novaya Gazeta Europe, an independent newspaper now banned in Russia, said that officials in Moscow have acknowledged around 261,000 people left Russia in just four days.

A Western official told the paper: “The mobilisation announcement means more and more Russians are coming to understand that they are being lied to. That’s why we’re seeing more protests, thousands leaving the country and refusing to go and serve.

“Around 30 percent of Russians have international passports. So if you’ve got a passport, you are probably already in the more educated, more highly skilled segment of the population. Many of them plan to stay outside, so this is an exodus of skilled workers.

“When you add the February exodus to the numbers, this is quite a big proportion of Russia’s economic capability and skilled workforce.”

It comes as the death toll of Russian troops, according to Ukrainian media, has reached an estimated 57,200 as the war reaches its eighth month. 

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