A stream of Russians flocking to Istanbul on Saturday expressed personal relief but concern for the safety of loved ones after the Kremlin announced a partial mobilisation for the war in Ukraine.
The price of some tickets from Moscow shot up 10-fold after President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced Russia’s first call-up of fighting-age men since World War II.
All those carrying hurriedly-packed belongings refused to give their full names for fear of retribution by Russian police against those still at home.
But all described anxiety not felt since the first days of Russia’s invasion of its Western-backed neighbour on February 24.
“We were talking to our friends and many are thinking about leaving,” said Daria, 22.
“Not everyone wanted to leave in February. The decision of September 21 forced many to think about it again.”
Her husband Andrei, 23, said he had been thinking of leaving since the first days of the war.
The mobilisation was the last straw.
“A lot of people decided to leave right now,” he said.
But Andrei also worried that speaking to reporters might cause issues for his family and friends back home.
“Yes, I think that things I am saying to you now — I am worried that there might be some punishment for that,” he said, standing next to a huge suitcase.
“The laws (in Russia) are very loosely applied. If they want to, they will find a reason to punish you.”