“It was only to be expected that (authorities) started using mobilisation from day one to put pressure on the protesters,” Pavel Chikov, head of the Agora association of human rights lawyers, said.
Russians have been fleeing the country since the announcement.
Unusually long lines to leave Russia were reported overnight and Thursday morning at once sleepy border crossings – including those with Mongolia and Kazakhstan in the east and Georgia in the south – with hundreds of cars pictured stuck in a night-time massive traffic jam.
In the Chelyabinsk region that borders Kazakhstan, dozens of men were seen standing near their cars in the vast steppe just after dawn.
At Moscow airports, border guards reportedly conducted spot checks on young men, quizzing them about their eligibility to be called up.
The mobilisation decree signed by President Putin on Wednesday left room for interpretation. Assurances by Russia’s top brass that they would only draft veterans with combat experience contradicted numerous reports from across the country that the mobilisation was much broader.
‘People are fleeing to Mongolia’
Images of tearful goodbyes between middle-aged men and their shocked wives on Thursday morning emerged from Russia’s remote Yakutia in eastern Siberia where women cried and hugged their men before they boarded buses for a training centre after they were called up earlier that day.
In Buryatia, an impoverished Russian region five time zones away that became a major source for soldiers in the first six months of the invasion, a local journalist voiced outrage about her husband, a 38-year-old father of five with no military background getting called up.
“Buryatia saw one of the most terrifying nights in its history,” local anti-war activist Alexandra Garmazhapova said on social media.
“People are fleeing to Mongolia.”