Russian reservists flee as Moscow begins troop mobilisation for Ukraine fight

Military-aged men made up the majority of those arriving off the latest flight from Moscow at Yerevan airport and many were reluctant to speak.

The Armenian capital has become a major destination for Russians fleeing since war began on Feb 24, drawing fierce international opposition that has aimed to isolate Russia.

Looking lost and exhausted in Yerevan airport’s arrivals hall, 44-year-old Sergei said he had fled Russia to escape being called up.

“The situation in Russia would make anyone want to leave,” he told AFP.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Russians to resist Putin’s partial mobilisation during his daily address on Thursday evening.

“Protest. Fight back. Run away. Or surrender” to the Ukrainian army, he said. “You are already complicit in all these crimes, murders and torture of Ukrainians. Because you were silent. Because you are silent.”

More than 1,300 people were arrested during anti-mobilisation demonstrations across Russia on Wednesday, a monitoring group reported.

ANNEXATION “VOTE”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday demanded Putin be held to account as he faced Russia in a Security Council session in which the United Nations catalogued abuses in Ukraine.

“We cannot – we will not – let President Putin get away with it,” Blinken said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – whom Blinken has refused to meet individually since the February invasion – lashed out at Western accusations.

“There’s an attempt today to impose on us a completely different narrative about Russian aggression as the origin of this tragedy,” Lavrov told the Security Council.

The confrontation on the diplomatic stage escalated as Kremlin-installed officials in Ukrainian regions controlled by Moscow’s forces vowed on Thursday to press ahead with annexation polls this week.