Fleeing Russia: Is time running out?

Many Russians are fleeing enlistment by crossing the border to Georgia. Credit: AP

Tens of thousands have crossed from Russia into Georgia but all signs point towards the journey becoming more difficult.

Russians have visa-free access to Georgia making it an easy route for young men running from enforced enlistment.

But according to reports from inside Russia, they could be running straight into the arms of those they are trying to escape.

A “conscription task force” on the Russian side of the border is being assembled to hand out subpoenas to those called to the frontline in Ukraine.

The Russian news agency TASS says the task force will include “representatives of the military registration and enlistment office [who will] check on the road whether a person is liable for military service, whether he is subject to conscription”.

At the same time there are clear signs of an increase in Russian military activity.

Video shared with ITV News and other videos on social media today show multiple military vehicles and soldiers heading past the queues towards the border.

Footage captured by ITV News shows the activity on both sides of the Russia-Georgia border

What those fleeing fear is Russia closing the border. Rumours abound but so far the government hasn't indicated anything to suggest such a move is imminent.

On the other side of the border, inside Georgia, a protest is planned with talk of preventing more Russians entering the country.

More than ten thousand a day have arrived here in the last two days alone and that number is predicted to rise.

Given the history of Russia’s aggression in Georgia, what some Georgian’s fear is an annexation of their country akin to what Russia did in Crimea.

Russian travellers have been left exhausted after making the crossing. Credit: ITV News
Long traffic jams have been forming near the border amid a mass exodus. Credit: ITV News

Many Georgians view the government as pro-Kremlin and with so many Russians inside Georgia there are some that worry the nation will develop even closer ties to Moscow.

But Vakhtang Gomelauri, minister of internal affairs of Georgia, said today: "These people, Russian citizens... ethnic Russians have been coming to Georgia for years. Why should this become a problem today?"

Of course money talks when fleeing a country.

Bribing your way to the front of the queue and crossing from Russia into Georgia depends on how much you have to pay.

The equivalent of $2000 dollars to the right official will put you on the fast-track to the border, avoid the 20 mile tailbacks and instead a personal driver will escort you right to the exit.

But if Russia clamp down, even the wealthiest may have to look for other routes.

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