'Let's see if I go back', Russians disembark in Serbia, fearing conscription
Passengers disembarked early on Thursday in Belgrade from a fight from Moscow, a day after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin declared partial mobilization of 300,000 reservists for war in Ukraine. Many said they purchased tickets well beforehand, but not all were sure they would go back.
One passenger, Misha, who didn't want to give his surname said his flight was a business trip planned earlier, but that it was maybe fortunate timing.
Asked if he would go back he said, "let's see, let's see. I can't say 'no', I can't say 'yes'. Let's see." Another passenger said simply: "That's a good question".
Pavel who said he was in Belgrade on a business trip, said he would be returning to Russia as hoped he would be able to avoid any conscription.
"As our defence minister said, one per cent of the population would be sufficient to fulfil the goal of the mobilization," Pavel told Reuters.
Moscow plans to conscript some 300,000 troops in an apparent escalation of its Ukraine invasion that began in February and has left thousands dead, displaced millions and reduced towns to rubble.
Another Russian who identified himself only as Sergey said he was concerned about mobilization.
"Every normal person (is concerned) I think. War is horrible so, it's okay to be afraid of war and of death and of such things," he said.
Sergey also said his friends and colleagues were anxious about the possibility of being sent to battlefields in Ukraine.
"They're afraid also and it's anxiety and uncertainty, maybe. So, it's hard for everyone. It's a difficult situation."
Concern over being conscripted saw flights out of Russia quickly sell out, and jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny called for mass demonstrations against the mobilization. Independent protest monitoring group OVD-Info said nearly 1,400 people in 38 Russian cities had been detained in protests by Wednesday evening.